Is this a movie you should watch alone, behind your desk, in a DVD or ripped version? Or should you watch it with a group of like-minded people, discussing it afterwards and relating its global thoughts to the local actions taking place where you live? I think it can be good both ways. But yesterday, I deliberately chose the second one.
Glad to have watched it at last, thanks to the people from Luxembourg’s alternative movements who brought it to the Cinémathèque. Having nothing else to do on that Monday evening as well as the prospective to meet some friends was enough to get me there. The latter part worked a bit too well, and I stayed later than intended. But although I missed my last bus and spent an unconfortable night in my sleeping bag at the office, I don’t regret that evening.
A movie against technocracy
First, I can only praise the moviemakers: It’s a pleasant watch, the off voice of Naomi Klein, which runs on a big part of the film, fits well with the images. The rhythm also seems right to me – not a small achievement in a movie that in the first place is a juxtaposition of very different episodes. Also, linking these episodes together is done quite well, although the film does not have a straightforward dramaturgy. To me, many things could have gone wrong with that kind of movie, and the mere fact that I wasn’t bothered by the form of the movie means that it is well crafted.
What about the content? The big surprise was (I haven’t read the book, only stuff about it) that Naomi Klein’s message is not just climate-aided capitalism bashing. From the start, she points to the more general paradigm of machinism, technocracy, Descartes’ dream or whatever you want to call it. That is an approach I would have associated with Charles Eisenstein, who focusses on questioning the storytelling of progress, capitalism and growth that still shapes the political debate. But no, Naomi Klein also insists that this is the wrong story and that we should turn towards indigenous peoples to develop another kind of storytelling: instead of dominating nature as a machine, humans may work together with nature, take from it but also give back, et caetera.
Although I’m not sure how far you should push that logic, I think that point of view is an important part in any critical approach to the world as it is. So this was a good surprise then.
Naomi Klein’s shock avoidance ;-)
Some criticism. The movie never focussed on the contradictions between the various ideas that it introduced. This might suggest to the audience that there are no such contradictions and conflicts. Bad thing. The bashing of the fossil fuel fetichism may be justified, but then, why do we not question the green tech fetichism. After all, solar panels are high tech stuff, and not exactly what is produced in a harmonious interaction with nature. Just think about the metal mining and the energy needed (presumably German or Chinese coal-based electricity) to produce those shiny gadgets. Also, the statements of the movie about China and Germany are a bit rosy to my taste.
Then there is the important topic of the traditional fight for social justice – the combination of which with the environmental causes is the main specificity of Naomi Klein’s book. Unfortunately, we are mostly shown the local population fighting against mining, but not the miners themselves, who might lose their jobs. Sure, the Indian wetland inhabitants explain why the industry won’t get them development and how they prefer to keep their links to the land. But what about all the people who do not have something like “their land” to relate to? Let’s not forget that already 50 percent of world inhabitants live in cities. Should we all move back to the countryside? Maybe, but at least I would like to have it discussed.
Green growth, really?
Finally, there’s the monologue of the tar sand worker at the end that gives the author hope. Sure, it’s comforting to hear that those who destroy the earth for a living feel bad about it. But when he explains that there should be a not too fast transition towards green energy, putting the money made with the tar sands to good use, what can we say? Isn’t that thinking of nature as a machine, where you first take the grey part, then the green one? Isn’t that also something that the governemnts from the South are claiming – polluting to get the funds for a green development? And, above all, isn’t that precisely the logic of “green” growth and capitalism – and didn’t we turn to Naomi Klein to hear a different tune? Granted, this is not her speaking. But again, not pointing to the contradictions might give the impression that they don’t matter.
That being said, the movie is able to transmit a lot of not so easily understandable ideas to people that are not ready to read the book (which some say is not an easy read anyway). I myself learned a lot, the stories made me think a lot, so in the end I can only be satisfied with the movie as a whole.