I bought this documentary recently. “The 11th hour” – produced and narrated by Hollywood wonderboy Leonardo DeCaprio. It’s ok. It’s good. Some might even say it’s great. I don’t know. I’ve seen a few of these documentaries over the past few years. It’s definitely been a trend for quite a while now to make films about the environment and how we are all going to hell. Mother Earth is swallowing us, punishing us for our sins. This very well might be true of course. If it’s not a punishment, it’s definitely a natural consequence for our actions over the past decades.
Along with “The 11th hour”, I also have the movie “The Inconvenient Truth” and the mini series “The Planet” in my collection. They’re all pondering the same theme, but in different ways. And I guess these movies speak to different people. “The Inconvenient Truth” is a good source of cold, hard facts. This is how it is. Deal with it. “The Planet” is my absolute favourite. Visually stunning and it really shows how good documentaries are an artform. You should check it out.
These three movies have something in common. They focus (mostly) on the bad stuff. They focus on pollution, soil erosion, species going extinct, greenhouse gases, vast landfills, peak oil, contaminated waters, melting glaciers, toxins in food and everything else that tells us we’re going downhill. Fast. And these are the stories we have been fed for a while now. The media are full of it. Most people with access to any kind of media gets these kinds of messages every day. Most people know these stories. Most people know the facts (or at least enough to make a decision or make up their mind about it). I don’t think that is the main problem anymore.
People know what’s happening. And they know why. I think the main problem is that many don’t know what to do about it. Of course – some couldn’t care less no matter how much they learn. Some just don’t care. But the problem with these movies and with media in general, is the massive single focus on the bad stuff. We’ve been bad and now we have to face the consequences. Experts, researchers, governments, activists and organisations are smacking our hands; putting us in the naughty corner.
Smacking hands, spanking or putting kids in the naughty corner doesn’t work. It does not change behaviour or attitudes. It does not make them learn anything of value to use further in life. It. Does. Not. Make. A. Difference. At all. Making us feel guilty, ashamed, frightened and bedazzled by shitloads of scary photos, facts and numbers does nothing but that. Make us feel guilty and scared and small and unable to take action and change. Consequence is good, but punishment and fear is not.
All of these movies play on strong emotions. As all good movies and art do. And strong emotions can lead to changes and actions. That is great. But it can also make you feel like a spectator; passive. Like there is nothing you can do about it. And that is my point.
Many people really don’t know what to do, or they believe that whatever they do doesn’t make a difference. Because we get bombarded with the “you’ve been naughty” message, and no one sits down and talk with (not to) us about it, or tells us how to make a change for the better and do something. We remain spectators. And strong forces work every day to keep us in this state.
These have become big shot mainstream movies. They mostly follow standard dramatization and cause-effect narratives as foundations. And what unfolds on screen is unquestionably one of the greatest dramas possible. Superior to any Hollywood produced sfx loaded blockbuster action movie.
But still. I wish that the focus had shifted a little. That movies and media in general would focus on what to do. How to do it. In “The 11th Hour” this is mostly left out of the movie. Some of it has made its way to the extra material on the DVD. Probably because the drama is what sells. The how-to-solve-it doesn’t.
Solutions are out there. They are manageable and ready to use for anyone. You just have to dig a little deeper, see through the “end of times” scenarios and take action. The solutions don’t make money for big production companies and newspapers and they don’t make us consume more. Maybe that’s the “problem”.