Monday, March 16, 2009

In a change from the advertised schedule, I’d like to beg your indulgence while I plug something non-theatre related for a moment.

Over the weekend I went to the London premiere of The Age of Stupid, an extraordinary new climate change docudrama by Franny Armstrong (the guerilla filmmaker behind McLibel) and starring the inimitable Pete Postlethwaite.

It’s a brilliantly simple premise – six documentary films about six different protagonists in six different stories about climate change are bound together by Pete Postlethwaite flicking through them; a lone archivist of humanity’s salvaged culture in a post-apocalyptic landscape. He is trying to work out the answer to one question: Why didn’t we save ourselves while there was still time?

It’s a uniquely affecting conceit that packages a familiar subject in a new and really quite humbling way, putting into stark relief all the petty excuses we make not to do our bit and start changing our lifestyles and lobbying our representatives.

What I love about this film is that it’s so much more than a film, it’s the start of a grass roots movement. Not only is it as good as its word – making the whole premiere carbon neutral by holding it in a solar-powered tent in Leicester Square, publishing detailed stats on the carbon footprint of the filmmaking process, and issuing campaign packs to everyone who sees it - it’s also revolutionised the way films are funded and distributed. The entire £450,000 budget was ‘crowd funded’, i.e. raised from volunteer’s contributions, who hold a stake in the film’s future performance, and maintain full control over the distribution rights, meaning they can license it to village halls and community groups around the world for as little as they like. In terms of people power it’s up there with Obama’s campaign.

So unlike other films of this genre, the film isn’t the end product but the start - a tool to galvanise communities into an entire campaign, in advance of the new UN climate change treaty, due to be finalised at a meeting in Copenhagen in December this year (described by one speaker as ‘the most important meeting in the history of mankind’). All the science does indeed suggest that we have a rapidly narrowing window between now and 2015 to do something about this, after which we will all be royally fucked, and nothing we can do from there on in will make the slightest difference.

The premiere itself was dramatic enough. Climate change Minister Ed Miliband was mightily stitched up on stage when he was unexpectedly confronted by Franny and Pete wielding a huge pledge card on which Pete wrote that he would hand his OBE back to the Queen, with a request to dissolve Parliament, if the government licensed the new coal-fired Kingsnorth power station. You can get a sense of his discomfort here.

The entire Age of Stupid website is dedicated to encouraging 250 million people to make a similar bloody great stink, and I’d urge you to have a look. The sales figures during this first week of the film’s release will dictate whether or not it goes nationwide, so please go and see it.

I don’t normally discuss personal politics on this blog, or digress into browbeating, but this is one issue I can’t stay quiet on. Those who know me will testify that I’m a quiet, pessimistic sort of greenie. I don’t go on about it much because I’m basically convinced that we’re all going to hell in an SUV, and that it will serve us right for being such selfish, greedy cunts. I’m as guilty of the hypocrisy as anyone, but I can’t help feeling that the honourable thing is to go down fighting.

Go and see this film. Apart from anything else it has a devastating thesis at its heart: Maybe we didn’t do anything because deep down, we didn’t think we were worth saving.

Amen, Franny. Amen.

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