Thursday, February 21, 2013

Surviving Progress

Surviving Progress (2011)
Dir. Mathieu Roy, Harold Crooks
Written by Roy and Crooks, from a lecture series by Ronald Wright

Yes yes, we're all doomed. Is that really reason enough to make a movie? 

This disappointing Lefty doc is long on style, but eschews the fascinating history in Ronald Wright’s lectures to focus on the same old dog and pony show about wealth concentration, resource management, and global trade that you always get from this sort of thing. Yes, we know corporations have too much control and we’re running out of oil. Is that all you got?

As an introduction to ideas like this, SURVIVING PROGRESS is a pretty good primer. It’s deftly edited, well-structured, and entertainingly produced considering that at the end of the day it’s just a bunch of academics and retired officials talking about macroeconomics. But if you’re already familiar with this stuff, it’s fairly dull going. A film which is just about ideas probably needs more groundbreaking ideas than this; if you’ve heard this kinda stuff before, the film becomes little more than a slickly produced hollow shell. Though ostensibly focusing on the same topics, 2009’s COLLAPSE is ultimately a much richer film, offering the same trenchant insight but also taking the time to surreptitiously explore the human side of it’s lone talking head. It’s stylish minimalism is both more impactful and more subtle than SURVIVING PROGRESS’s flashy apocalyptic editing, too.

I’m all for exploring these issues, but frankly I’m not sure what a film like this is for, other than a spiffy self-congratulatory package for people who already think they know what’s going on. Those yet ignorant of these problems just don’t seem likely to watch a documentary about them --however entertainingly assembled-- and are unlikely to be won over by it’s alarmist tone and one-sided barrage of statistics and loosely-fitted historical anecdotes. Which is not to say that it’s not a persuasive, generally correct argument; it is. It just seems more interested in lecturing you about a conversation that’s been going on for decades now than it is in joining that conversation itself. That might be cause to celebrate it’s commitment to smartly-crafted reporting. But jeez, who wants to watch a re-run of the news?

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