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Anthropocene: The Human Epoch

Director - Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier - 2019

"Greasy movie"
Three documentarists travel to every corner of the planet in order to register the irreversible impact that humans have on our planet - from Sheffield Doc Fest


Narrated by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander and filmed in 20 countries across all six continents, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch documents the action that us human beings have on our planet. Such activity is so intense and profound that geologists have recently proposed that the latest epoch should be called Anthropocene, dating from the commencement of significant human impact.

Our planet is 4.5 billion years old, and our history is literally written in stone. Now this history is being quickly rewritten, as our planet changes at an unprecedented rate. We learn that there have been five great extinctions, and that we are now bang in the middle of the sixth one. Right now the extinction rate is 10,000 higher than before Anthropocene epoch began, presumably just a few thousand years ago (we’re never told exactly when it started).

The drone sequences capturing the vastness of our planet as well as also the profound wounds and scars that we’re leaving on it are the most impressive images of Anthropocene: The Human Epoch. We see Carrara marble being dug in Italy, lithium in the Atacama desert, phosphate in Florida, and so on. The filmmakers also visit tusk collectors in Kenya and sculptors in China, heavy metal smelting facilities in the ultra-polluted and inhospitable Russian city of Norilks (320 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle), the largest man-made tunnel on Earth in Switzerland (we take a dizzying high-speed journey of the 57 kilometres), the largest excavator in Germany (at a whooping 12,000 tons), and much more. Structures erected by humans are changing, too. We see a magnificent Church being knocked down in Germany in order to make room for mining.

If you have the opportunity, watch this film at the cinema, so you can grasp the enormity of the Earth, its natural wonders and the damage that we’re inflicting on them. It’s fascinating to see the quiet and enduring stone formations on the surface of our planet gradually carved out and reshapen by human activity. The directors made the creative choice not to use any talking heads interviews, instead allowing us to marvel at the images. I wish, however, that the film provided the sources to their very bold claims (that doesn’t have to be done by the means of interviews, they could have used written notes, or Vikander’s voice-over instead). I also missed a call-to-action for us a individuals (we all know our planet is dying, but what is it that each one of us can do in order to revert this?). Still, definitely worth a viewing.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch has just premiered at the Sheffield Doc Fest.

"Greasy movie"

By Victor Fraga - 08-06-2019

By Victor Fraga - 08-06-2019

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based writer with more than 15 ...

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