Clever film, dumb generation

THESSALONIKI – «I find it hard to understand how anyone who grasps the problem can work on anything else.» This is Franny Armstrong, director of the climate doomsday docudrama «The Age of Stupid,» speaking to Vertigo Magazine ahead of the movie’s world premiere last night in London. Her words should come as no surprise from someone who, as a zoology student at University College London years ago, submitted a dissertation titled: «Is the Human Species Suicidal?» Armstrong, now 35, seems to have come up with the answer. Set in 2055, her movie – part of the ongoing Thessaloniki Documentary Festival – features a lone figure living high in a grey tower located in an iceless Arctic. Played by Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite, the man could well be neighbors with Wall-E, the cute robot on the deserted Earth from Pixar’s recent dystopian sci-fi epic. The tower, we are told, is the «global archive» that stores records on human life before we self-destroy. Like Wall-E, the curious garbage compactor robot with the precious, if totally worthless, collection of human artifacts, the archivist replays old television footage asking one simple question: «Why didn’t we stop climate change when we still had the chance?» Armstrong, for one, is doing her bit. «The Age of Stupid» is the first fully eco-friendly film: The message is unmistakably green and so is the medium. The producers did everything possible to minimize the carbon footprint of the movie and their black box, as it were, is open to public scrutiny. «We calculated the film’s carbon footprint by recording every journey – by foot, bicycle, motor boat, rowing boat, plane, train, car, rickshaw and helicopter – as well as all the electricity, gas, food and equipment,» Armstrong told Reuters last week. They put it at 94 tons of CO2 or 185 patio heaters a month. «I definitely think our film is worth 185 patio heaters,» she said. Most Britons seem to agree. More than 60 venues across the UK were expected to screen the movie during what was dubbed the «people’s premiere» last night, receiving the digital signal from a solar-powered cinema tent pitched right in the heart of London’s Leicester Square, a spot accustomed to hosting far glitzier events. Nevertheless, a number of green celebrities were expected to attend the movie’s premiere in the British capital after posing on a specially designed green carpet. No less revolutionary is the «crowd-funding» model used to finance the movie. Producers counted on the interest and pocket money of complete strangers and groups who were told they would see their names credited at the film website and promised a share of the profits – should there be any. «We wanted complete editorial control,» said Armstrong. «We didn’t want advertising people telling us we had to water down our message.» Her brief cinematographic career has taught Armstrong a couple of things about censorship. «McLibel» – released as a 53-minute film in 1997 and again as an 85-minute feature film in 2005 – her documentary on the long legal battle of two activists against McDonald’s infamous libel action, was met with some reluctance on the part of broadcasters, including the BBC, fearful of legal action from the fast-food giant. That Big Mac and fries should hardly make it into Postlethwaite’s archive. «The Age of Stupid» will be screened at the John Cassavetes theater on March 20 at 10.30 p.m. and March 22 at 5.30 p.m.

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