The Age Of Stupid

  • Year:2009
  • Rating:M
  • Director:Franny Armstrong
  • Cast:Jamila Bayyoud, Adnan Bayyoud, Alvin DuVernay, Piers Guy, Pete Postlethwaite
  • Release Date:August 20, 2009
  • Distributor:Hoyts
  • Running time:89 minutes
  • Film Worth:$12.50
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

By aiming at the disinterested through a sci-fi inspired future, this documentary effectively gets across its urgent message.

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This cleverly framed eco-doc from McLibel's Franny Armstrong postulates a dystopic 2055 in which a lone archivist (Pete Postlethwaite) holds up in a container tower high above the ravages of apocalyptic doom, sending beams of information into deep space in order to explain what the human race has done to itself (hint: all bad stuff). Documentary vignettes of Shell Oil-ravaged Nigeria, upwardly mobile and consumption-oriented India, environmentally super-conscious middleclass England, post-Katrina New Orleans, and the melting Alps are framed by Postlethwaite's dry, defeated introductions, which humanise familiar problems and imbue the proceedings with an admirable urgency. His explanations, though plaintive, are hardly whiny, and the sci-fi aspects of the framing story add a hyper-realistic element.

The Age Of Stupid is at its best when detailing the failure of good intentions, rather than demonising the politicians and oil companies that serve as its major villains and specific targets. In India, for instance, an entrepreneur attempts to democratise air travel for the country's poorest classes, while a family in the UK swears off aeroplanes for the environmental devastation that they cause. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, an ex-oil man and hurricane hero explains the legitimate and myriad benefits of petroleum, subtly and honestly defending the very corporations that are simultaneously destroying West Africa. In Postlethwaite's container tower, contradictions necessarily abound, which is truly a relief from the reductive slogans and asinine corporate defences trotted out in many environmentally conscious documentaries.

While there is a touch of television amateurism in The Age Of Stupid's pithy humour and animated interludes, its short, interconnected segments are accessible to any audience. Moreover, by speaking directly to the disaffected and disinterested, its light tone successfully disguises an intent that could not be more serious or more urgent, which is no small feat.

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