Original release: February 6th, 2009
Running time: 89 minutes
Writer and director: Franny Armstrong
Narrator: Pete Postlethwaite
People are inherently stupid and getting more stupid by the day. It’s no surprise really; we keep ourselves busy with X-Factor, celebrity lifestyles, gossip, sex scandals and ‘social’ networking. We buy products we don’t need but somehow we can’t live without. We think they’ll make us happier and more beautiful. Stupid’s become our universal religion. We bow down to the church of stupid everyday we step foot on the public transport system and work at jobs that are meaningless to support a lifestyle we can’t afford but it’s ok because banks are happy to extend our credit. Stupid is as stupid does, but what if that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how stupid we really are?
The Age of Stupid looks at events in human history from the future. It’s a very bleak future, but not a surprising one. It’s the year 2055 and the world is ravaged by climate change; London is flooded, Sydney is burning, Las Vegas has been swallowed up by desert, the Amazon rainforest has burnt up, snow has vanished from the Alps and nuclear war has laid waste to India. From a tower rising out of the ocean, The Archivist (Pete Postlethwaite) pieces together footage from our present time and asks “Why didn’t we stop climate change when we still had the chance?”
Let’s start then with Shell who in 2005 made £13,000,000,000 in profits from oil, most of which came from Nigeria. Shell promised local communities 13% of profits would go towards getting them clean water, health care, electricity and schools once they started drilling for oil there. But once Shell drains the oil from an area, people are worse off than before and dying from cholera with nothing being done. Shell say they’re afraid of kidnappings but paradoxically, finding oil increases a country’s poverty.
The oil wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few. The agriculture, education and health system of a country are often neglected and thus collapse, crippling these areas further. Another problem is the gas flares. As gas is usually found alongside oil, companies cannot export it easily and although local communities can use it to heat their home and cook, installing the infrastructure costs too much and it’s easier for Shell to burn it all instead. Fields are left burning night and day filling the air with up to 70 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. This is more than emissions from 10 million homes in the UK. Asthma, bronchitis, cancer and skin diseases have all been linked to the burning of these gas fields.
Alternative energy has been around for over 50 years. Why have we barely used it? Why were solar panels taken off the White House? The answer is because the oil men have had an unhealthy influence on the people who run America. Actually, they are the people running it. Oil business isn’t just in bed with the government, it is the government.
The Age Of Stupid brings us six different stories of individuals whose lives illustrate aspects of the impending catastrophe, but it was one in particular I was taken with, even though they all offer a unique and important narrative. Layefa Malemi is a woman who lives in a village in Nigeria, a village where Shell has been drilling; a village that can’t escape the stifling grip of poverty. She dreams of one day having nice things, studying medicine and helping others but she struggles daily in the shadow of Shell’s exploitation.
Her story should appall, anger and worry those who watch this film as it puts our own lives in perspective. But putting things into perspective isn’t really going to help Layefa in the long run. The situation is critical and about to become worse, we need to stand up to the government and these corporations and demand change. Anything less than that would be plain stupid.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .