"The Age of Stupid," a 90-minute film about the consequences of humanity's current behavior, is the rare project that mixes documentary with straight-up drama.
Some segments feature Pete Postlethwaite—simply called the Archivist—as a man living about 50 years in the future. He's alone, pondering archival footage from our present day and wondering why we didn't curbour globe-plundering behavior sooner.
The footage that the Archivist considers is the real thing: the documentary portions of the film. These are six stories of real individuals—in France, England, New Orleans, Nigeria, India and Iraq—living their own dramas.
It's a clever conceit, and one that's generally executed well. Filmmaker Franny Armstrong lets the Archivist fling through videos like a souped-up iPod. The graphical work in "Stupid" is extensive, but not as compelling as the real-life stories.
Take Piers Guy. He's a wind-farm developer in England who's thwarted by city councils and locals put off by the "aesthetics" of wind turbines.
Or Alvin DuVernay. Until recently, he worked for Shell Oil off the coast of Louisiana. His home fell to Hurricane Katrina, and the aftermath of the storm made him rethink priorities and lifestyle.
Independent fund-raising efforts for "Stupid" go back to 2004, when shooting began. Production ceased last year, and the film was released theatrically in the United Kingdom in March. I saw it recently in Nashville at a special screening for The Climate Project, and the filmmakers plan to make it more widely available in the United States this fall.
The provocative film is less about the science of climate change and more about current human behaviors that damage our planet and those who live on it.
Octogenarian Fernand Pareau, featured in the film lamenting the receding glaciers of the French Alps, captures the essence of the problem some of us have: We're careless with what's cheap. If energy is cheap, we don't take care to conserve it.
"Cheap," of course, has different meanings, and while energy may be cheap in one context, it is costly in another. That is, our love of cheap energy may wind up costing the planet.
Armstrong makes some of her points with the obligatory animated sequence. So, resource-intensive bottled water gets the cartoonishly creative treatment, as does the premium on oil.
One of the more dissonant ideas to emerge from "Stupid" is how some people in developing countries want to emulate Americans and the American lifestyle—despite the fact that Earth can't provide this luxury for all its inhabitants.
This brings up a fundamental question: Does everyone on the planet have an equal right to the planet's resources?If so, those of us who take more than our share face a moral, as well as practical, dilemma.
Cliff Vaughn is managing editor and media producer for EthicsDaily.com.