The Age of Stupid

Why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?

The Age of Stupid It's the year 2055 and the world has been ravaged by climate change. London is underwater, Sydney is on fire and nuclear war has turned India into a wasteland. An archivist looks back at old footage from the year 2008 to understand why humankind failed to address climate change. From the director of McLibel and starring Pete Postlethwaite, this bold, provocative film warns of the dire consequences of our failure to stop climate change.

The year is 2055. The Taj Mahal lies in ruins. Sydney Opera House is on fire. London is completely under water – the whole planet, in fact, has been utterly destroyed by climate change. Above the ruins, in a pod preserving history’s greatest books, artwork and scientific discoveries, the Archivist looks back on the human negligence leading up to environmental annihilation. “We could have saved ourselves, but we didn’t”, he says. “What state of mind were we in, to face extinction and simply shrug it off?”

The Archivist pulls up footage of Jeh Wadia who is opening Go Air, India’s third budget airline. “Having an elite class who can fly, in a country of a billion people, is ridiculous”, he says. “My higher purpose is to ensure that I eradicate poverty.” However, the majority of Jeh’s 1,200 employees have never set foot on an aeroplane and he manages them with a rod of iron. “Does it take fucking more than ten minutes to clean this?” he demands to one of his employees tending to an aircraft. “If I find any dirt you’ll be fired!”

In another clip, the Archivist watches as Al DuVernay rescues over 100 people from flooding in New Orleans shortly after it was hit by Hurricane Katrina. Al, who paddled from house to house in his boat, recalls the experience: “that’s a real different perspective. Driving through your neighbourhood at tree level.” But Al’s relationship with the environment isn’t exactly straight forward. His career has been spent advising Shell on the best locations to drill for oil. “Certainly I’m an ecologist and an environmentalist”, he says. “I really don’t have a problem squaring that with working for an oil company I feel has done a pretty good job in being environmentally friendly."

The townspeople of Odiama, Nigeria, would probably disagree. When a dispute broke out between Shell and the Nigerian government over ownership of their land, the oil company looked on as the military massacred its inhabitants. “The ones that stayed, they gathered them up, beat them up. Raped some of our girls”, says Omieka Weked, a woman who fled into the forest when the soliders arrived. There she delivered a baby who died shortly afterwards because of a lack of clean drinking water. Layefa Malin, whose sister died during a cholera outbreak says “we thought that if we introduced Shell into this community that they will change the water, but it remains the same.”

“We had an unspoken collective pact to pretend climate change wasn’t happening. As though, if we all ignored it hard enough, it wouldn’t be true”, says the Archivist. “Not absolutely everyone. A few were shouting Fire!” Piers Guy has been developing wind farms for over fifteen years and has received death threats from local campaigners who believe his turbines will spoil their view. “It’s an emotional campaign”, Piers says. “It’s about fear and mostly based on bollocks quite frankly.” Local protestors are responsible for halting around 80% of proposed wind energy projects in Britain. Had they been built, 10% of British energy would be non-polluting.

As the years between 2009 and 2055 race by, climate change triggers more and more extreme weather events until the entire planet is destroyed. “Given our use, or misuse, of resources over the last 100 years or so, I would probably rename that age. Something like the Age of Ignorance. The Age of Stupid”, says Al. Finally the Archivist is left to wonder why humans knowingly allowed ourselves to be wiped out. “The question I’ve been asking is: why didn’t we save ourselves when we had the chance?” the Archivist wonders. “Is the answer that on some level, we weren’t sure if we were worth saving?”

Reviews and More

The Age of Stupid (2009) on IMDb

A much sterner and more alarming polemic than An Inconvenient Truth” – The New York Times

Bold, supremely provocative, and hugely important"–The Telegraph

holds our attention like witnesses to a murder” – Science 2.0

tightly constructed and dynamic” – ABC Radio News

Educational and inventive” – Cole Smithey

An engaging and urgent attempt to make us all see sense about climate change.” – Sydney Morning Herald

Read the diaries of director Franny Armstrong about the making of the film, here.

Festivals and Awards
LaurelThe Grierson Awards - Best Green Doc
LaurelSunny Side of the Doc - Best Green Doc
LaurelSunchild International Environmental Festival - First Prize
LaurelBirds Eye View Film Festival - Best Documentary
LaurelBritish Independent Film Award - Nominee

"The largest simultaneous film premiere in terms of screen viewings" – Guinness World Records


The Producers

Director - Franny Armstrong

Franny Armstrong is a filmmaker and environmental activist. Born in 1972, Armstrong grew up in London and studied Zoology at University College London. In 1997 Armstrong completed McLibel, a documentary following the decade-long McDonald's libel trial, but was prevented from releasing it until 2005. Armstrong has also directed Drowned Out (2002) and The Age of Stupid (2009). She is the founder of Spanner Films and the 10:10 campaign which aimed to reduce carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.

Producer - John Battsek

John Battsek is a British producer and manager of the film department at Passion Pictures. He is credited as producer or executive producer on nearly one hundred films. In 1999 Battsek produced One Day in September, winning him multiple awards including an Emmy for Outstanding Historical Programming. The film also won the Oscar for Best Documentary. Battsek went on to produce How I Live Now (2013) with Tom Holland and Saoirse Ronan and Listen to Me Marlon (2015). Battsek continues to produce multiple documentaries each year.

Making The Film

Armstrong claims to have had the idea for Age of Stupid in 2002 whilst drunk. Two years later she began to crowdsource funding, an uncommon method of financing films at the time. Armstrong and Battsek spent four years following the stories of seven people whose lives were in some way shaped by climate change which are tied together by the fictional character 'The Archivist' (Peter Postlethwaite). Filming took place between 2005 and 2007. The UK premiere of The Age of Stupid in 2009 broke the world record for the number of simultaneous screenings whilst only producing 1% of the emissions of a normal premiere. Armstrong launched the 10:10 campaign later the same year.

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