Saturday, 25 August 2007
THE 11TH HOUR
The 11th Hour (2007) dir. Nadia Connors, Leila Conners Peterson
A Documentary presented by Leonardo Di Caprio
“The 11th Hour” is a high profile documentary which arrives with much hype and publicity, mainly due to the vigorous efforts of its producer and presenter Leonardo Di Caprio – a fervent celebrity environmentalist. I agree 100% with the information and 100% with the arguments in the film. It’s hard to fault a film for so passionately trying to convince people to change their collective ways and save the environment. But since the medium is film and art, I must review it as such. As a persuasive argument for environmentalism it succeeds. As a ‘film’ it fails.
“The 11th Hour” gathers dozens of the finest scientists, activists, and politicians in traditional talking head interview style to summarize the state of the world. Leonardo Di Caprio opens the film like David Attenborough or James Burke in a PBS documentary, walking and talking telling us what we’re about to see and be told. Perhaps it’s a warning for those who already know we’re teetering on the edge of our own destruction to leave the theatre and watch something more entertaining, like “The Simpsons” or “Hairspray. What follows is an assault of doom and gloom information from a line-up of scientists telling us how everything we do in life is wasteful, redundant and harmful. Everyone from Stephen Hawking to Mikael Gorbachev to Aboriginal chiefs – everyone is given their shot at us.
I invariably must compare the film to “An Inconvenient Truth” which has the same agenda, but while Al Gore’s film is succinct and to the point, “The 11th Hour” is sloppy and meandering. The film not only discusses our environmental irresponsibilities but scolds us for eating junk food, watching celebrity gossip television, playing video games etc etc. It’s like being caught in a pseudo-intellectual rant from a stoner/drunkard at a party. Just rambling and rambling to the point of not having a point. There’s a reason why Al Gore is a politician, he knows how to speak and knows how to present an argument. “An Inconvenient Truth” was concise and streamlined – “The 11th Hour” is not.
I was surprised how under-visualized the film was. Other than the interviews virtually the entire film is a series of montages made up of old archival stock footage we’ve seen time and time again. I can only guess how much was original footage but I would wager about 10% or less. Midway through the film the editing of the stock footage reminded me of Oliver Stone’s “JFK” – and low and behold the editor of the film was Pietro Scalia – the multi Oscar-winning editor of “JFK”. He does his best with what he has, but the film badly needed some purposely shot film to provide us some relief from the barrage of stock images. We are browbeaten for nearly 2 hours by shocking image after shocking image – decaying cows in fields, seal clubbing, Katrina flooding footage, glacier melting, toxic chemical dumping and on and on. It just doesn’t stop. Cudos though to the filmmakers for choosing some magnificently grand music tracks from the likes of Sigur Ros, Mogwai and Brian Eno.
The films of Michael Moore, which are unabashedly activist, succeed because entertainment is put above information. “An Inconvenient Truth” was heavy on information and persuasive arguments but the heart of the film is the story of Al Gore, which is an emotional and entertaining journey. “The 11th Hour” is all information, no heart, no emotion.
As I said I can’t argue against the message, but for the medium of choice (cinema), the argument needs to be made by using art to inform. Interestingly enough this film has essentially been made before – 20 years ago – as “Koyaanisqasti.” Except “Koyaanisqatsi” didn’t have a single interview or line of voiceover - only music and images. It’s a perfect example of presenting a powerful argument as art and entertainment, rather then preaching. So, make your next car a hybrid, convert your household lights to energy saver bulbs, and recycle your plastic bottles. And if you want to see how our shallow and superfluous lifestyle needs are collectively contributing to the downfall of the planet, watch “Koyaanisqatsi” – you will definitely be entertained and informed.
Click here for a review and clip of “Koyaanisqatsi”
Here’s the trailer for “The 11th Hour”