ANTHROPOCENE – the current proposed geological epoch in which humans are the primary cause of permanent planetary change.
Filmmakers filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier return with their latest and third of their trilogy after MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES and WATERMARK, entitled ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH. The doc, written by Baichwal and narrated by Swedish actress and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander is a disturbing doc that demands to be seen for it explores human’s impact on the Earth. The term for this impact is terraframing – the resurfacing of land due to human needs.
Scientists believe that human beings have left the Holocene epoch (which started 11,700 years ago when the last ice age receded) and entered the Anthropocene (because humans
now change the earth and its systems more than all other processes combined). The film examines this awful age where the planet is altered for its worst.
Baichwal’s films are always stunning to look at, even when displaying the ugliness of the earth. This is most evident with the landfill segment where the entire screen is composed to human garbage. One can only imagine the stench of the place.
The film’s first scene is that of molten metal The site on display is north of the Arctic Circle in what Baischwal describes as Russia’s most polluted city. This is where the world’s largest metal smelting industry is located.
Baichwal and her crew travel the world documenting evidence of human domination – from concrete seawalls that cover 60% of China’s mainland coast, to psychedelic potash mines in Russia’s Ural Mountains, to vast marble quarries in Italy, to surreal phosphate tailings ponds in Florida. In each country, the voiceover is in the country’s languages (in English, Russian, Italian, German, Mandarin and Cantonese with English subtitles) so as to add to the segments’ authenticity.
Baichwal’s film provides a bit of distraction in the form of the segment on extinction. She shows as well as educates on the extremely endangered species including the white cheek gibbon, the white rhinoceros, the Egyptian tortoise, the chicken frog and the okapi. I never knew what a okapi was till now.
Baichwal does not provide solutions to the problems nor offers much hope to the saving of the planet. Perhaps she hopes this document on film might serve the purpose.
Still, ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH is a spectacular film – Baichwal’s best of her trilogy. She has spent an immense amount of time on research and travels resulting in this magnificent educational documentary.
The film is part of The Anthropocene Project that also comprises complementary exhibitions premiering simultaneously on September 28 at the Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada, new Burtynsky photographs, new film installations by Baichwal and de Pencier, experiences in augmented and virtual reality, a book published by Steidl, and education program.