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The Age of Stupid

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Climate change is alarming enough, says Hattie Hartman. Scare tactics dilute the message

The Age of Stupid, directed by Franny Armstrong. In selected cinemas nationwide. www.ageofstupid.net

I wish I could say you must rush out and see Franny Armstrong’s film The Age of Stupid, but I can’t. Still, I hope you will. The story is set in the year 2053, in an observation tower off the coast of Norway, where an archivist played by Pete Postlethwaite reviews film footage from 2008, insistently asking why we didn’t act to save the planet when we could.

Independent director Armstrong ‘crowd-funded’ her film through a mix of social events and the internet, raising over £450,000. This self-funding gave Armstrong total editorial freedom, which she fully exploits. She is having quite an impact. The government’s climate-change and energy secretary Ed Miliband accepted an invitation to debate the director at a screening at London’s Tricycle Cinema this week – a credit to them both.

As excellent as the idea of a Back to the Future treatment of climate change is, we see a bit too much of Postlethwaite. Happily though, we also follow the stories of six real people: an 82-year-old French mountain guide (my favourite); an Indian entrepreneur starting South Asia’s answer to Ryanair; an aspiring medical student in Niger; a New Orleans resident who evacuated over 100 people after Hurricane Katrina; two Iraqi refugees; and a UK wind-farm developer. The characters and their stories are engaging, though I’m not sure we had to go to Iraq.

The film is extremely engaging in parts: footage of future flight attendants training to brandish a fire extinguisher is as hilarious as the sight of NIMBY-types (who voted down the local wind farm) extolling the virtues of renewable energy is maddening. The Age of Stupid opens with a shot of the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament under water. It’s one of many compelling images in Armstrong’s docudrama, but its tone – a bit too close to John Guillermin’s 1974 film Towering Inferno – and position diminish the impact of the otherwise damning real-life footage that follows. We see hikers descending multiple ladders into receding glaciers near Chamonix in the French Alps – the consequences of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in US and last summer’s flooding in the UK.

This is climate-change-turned-entertainment, but in presenting it as such, Armstrong’s message gets lost. Maybe I’m wrong. Go and see the film for yourself and post your views on my sustainability blog, www.ajfootprint.com.

Resume: Damning real-life evidence is choked by edu-tainment set pieces

Hattie Hartman is the AJ’s sustainability editor

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