This Canadian documentary stems from work that began in 2009, when world environment experts began investigating whether the Earth had left the Holocene epoch and entered the Anthropocene, where humans shaped environmental changes faster than any natural phenomenon could. Ten years later, this conclusion is supported, and the sixth great extinction is well underway. Climate change is no new topic, but the micro and macro lenses that Anthropocene: The Human Epoch takes to the irreversible changes humanity has wreaked upon our world breathtakingly presents this information.
Sometimes it is hard to tell whether a shot is an extreme closeup or long shot until a human or object is provided for scale. This adds to the dreamlike mood created by the deliberate pacing and lingering shots on extraordinary man-made phenomena – a mood that turns nightmarish as their impact is understood. Narration (Alicia Vikander) is used sparingly and only when place cards and subject commentary cannot fill in the details.
While the devastating impact of humanity’s collective environmental meddling is unequivocally stated, Anthropocene’s human touch extends beyond the irresponsibility, greed, and technological advances. Juxtaposing the incredible pollution in a Siberian mining and metallurgy town with its residents sunbathing by contaminated rivers and celebrating their industry is half upsetting, half uplifting. Similarly, a train tunnel’s completion ceremony is unintentionally unsettling. The documentary’s only detriment is that it does not explicitly mention corporate industry and deregulation as responsible for most pollution and destruction – while stating correctly that our entire species is complicit, it does not condemn the primary culprits.
While climate change is frequently mentioned, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch presents the evidence of humans’ impact on the environment – both intentional and unintentional – through a series of arresting images. Raising questions about humanity’s place in and responsibility towards the world, this fastidiously constructed documentary demands attention.
CAST: Alicia Vikander
DIRECTORS: Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, Edward Burtynsky
WRITER: Jennifer Baichwal
SYNOPSIS: Many experts believe that the Earth has left the Holocene and entered the Anthropocene: the era of human changes. These are documented in a stunning, harrowing look at the world’s irrevocable natural changes.