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The Age of Stupid

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The Age of Stupid

Theatrical release poster
Directed byFranny Armstrong
Produced byLizzie Gillett
Written byFranny Armstrong
Narrated byPete Postlethwaite
StarringPete Postlethwaite
Jehangir Wadia
Layefa Malin
Al Duvernay
Fernand Pareau
Jamila and Adnan Bayyoud
Piers Guy
Mark Lynas
David King
George Monbiot
Music byChris Brierley
CinematographyFranny Armstrong
Editing byDavid G Hill
StudioSpanner Films
Distributed byDog Woof Pictures (UK)
Release date(s)2009 (2009)
Running time89 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Age of Stupid is a 2009 British film by Franny Armstrong, director of McLibel and founder of 10:10, and first-time producer Lizzie Gillett. The Executive Producer is John Battsek, producer of One Day in September.

The film is a drama-documentary-animation hybrid which stars Pete Postlethwaite as a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055, watching archive footage from 2008 and asking "Why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?"



The film begins in the year 2055 in a ravaged, war-torn, flooded world, where an unnamed archivist (Pete Postlethwaite) is entrusted with the safekeeping of humanity's surviving store of art and knowledge. Alone in his offshore repository, he reviews archive footage from back "when we could have saved ourselves", trying to discern where it all went wrong. Amid news reports of the gathering effects of climate change and global civilisation teetering towards destruction, he alights on six stories of individuals whose lives in the early years of the 21st century seem to illustrate aspects of the impending catastrophe. These six stories take the form of interweaving documentary segments that report on the live of real people in the present, and switch the film's narrative form from fiction to fact. The people who feature are:

Al Duvernay, a resident of New Orleans who stayed behind and helped in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. He reflects on what it feels like to have had all his possessions washed away in the flood, and also on his job in the oil industry and how valuable resources are being wasted.

Indian businessman Jehangir Wadia, who talks about the start-up of his low cost airline GoAir and his democratic vision of a world in which all people, rich and poor, are able to afford air travel.

Two Iraqi children, Jamila and Adnan, who fled with their family to Jordan during the Iraq War, who tell the story of their father's death and of their desire to be reunited with the older brother they left behind.

Fernand Pareau, an 82-year-old man who works as a guide on the Mont Blanc glacier in France - he takes an English family on a tour of the glacier and explains how he has seen the ice recede massively in his lifetime. The guide is also shown taking action against expanding road infrastructure in his area.

Wind-farm developer, Piers Guy who talks about his efforts to bring sustainable energy to an English village, and how he is being blocked by people who profess a commitment to fighting global warming but do not want wind turbines destroying their views. His family takes action in reducing their carbon footprint and contemplate the effects of air travel.

Layefa Malemi, a Nigerian woman who struggles with poverty despite the wealth of oil in her country. She talks about her ambition to study medicine and the everyday impact of the exploitation of oil by Shell Nigeria on health, security and the environment in Nigeria.


The film's UK premiere was on 15 March 2009 in a solar-powered cinema tent in London's Leicester Square,[2] linked by satellite to 62 cinemas around the UK. The premiere received a Guinness World Record for being the largest film premiere ever, based on number of screens. An independent audit conducted by Carbon Accounting Systems found the event's carbon emissions to be 1% of those produced by a normal blockbuster premiere.[3] During the post show discussion, star of the film Pete Postlethwaite threatened to return his OBE if the government gave the go-ahead to the controversial Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in Kent.[4] President Mohamed Nasheed received a standing ovation for announcing that the Maldives would be the world's first carbon neutral country.[5]

The Age of Stupid was released in Australia and New Zealand on 19 August with simultaneous green carpet premieres in Auckland and Sydney, linked by satellite to cinemas in the two countries.

The film was released internationally on 21 September and 22 September 2009 at the "Global Premiere". A green carpet cinema tent in downtown New York was linked by satellite to 442 cinemas across the USA and to more than 200 cinemas in 30+ other countries, as well as another 33 countries which hosted Indie screenings (with no satellite link). Popular musicians Moby and Thom Yorke from Radiohead performed live. Special guests at the New York premier included Kofi Annan, Heather Graham, and Gillian Anderson, many of whom flew there, leading anti-environmentalist filmmaker Phelim McAleer to comment that the film should have been called the "Age of Hypocrisy".[6]


Writing for The Guardian, environmental activist George Monbiot said that the film's "message, never stated but constantly emerging, is that we all have our self-justifying myths. We tell ourselves a story of our lives in which we almost always appear as the heroes. These myths prevent us from engaging with climate change."[7]Time Out London's film editor, Dave Calhoun, said, "Armstrong’s prognosis is apocalyptic, but her journalism is solid, instructive and pleasingly thoughtful," and described the film as "entertaining and provocative".[8] The Times called the film "the most imaginative and dramatic assault on the institutional complacency shrouding the issue", saying, "The power of this shameless campaigning film is that it gives dates and deadlines. It explores options and ideas. It names culprits..." [9] The Telegraph's reviewer, Sukhdev Sandhu, said, "Bold, supremely provocative, and hugely important, [Armstrong's] film is a cry from the heart as much as a roar for necessary change." [10]Based on only 7 reviews Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 86%.[11] The New York times described the film as a "much sterner and more alarming polemic than An Inconvenient Truth". The review noted the "gallows humor" throughout the film although the review was critical of the crude animated sequences.[5] The Sydney Morning Herald described the film as "a wake-up call with an elegiac tone — not quite hectoring but pressing. This is about human nature, greed and personal responsibility. It aims to scare and galvanize — and it's pretty good at both."[12] The Sun's critic said "reality has caught up with the apocalyptic images." [13]


Shot in seven countries over a period of three years, the film features six separate documentary stories, archive footage and lots of animation from, amongst others, Passion Pictures, creators of the Gorillaz animations. The original rough cut did not include the archivist which was added later to frame the story and better tie together the six parts.[12]

Crowd funding

The film was "crowd-funded", with the £450,000 budget being raised by selling “shares” to 223 individuals and groups who donated between £500 and £35,000. These groups range from a hockey team to a women’s health centre. This is mostly to give it the best chance of reaching a mainstream multiplex audience, but also to retain complete editorial control. These investors all own a percentage of the film and will receive a pro-rata share in any profits, alongside the 105 crew who worked for survival wages.[1] In a 55 minute documentary, The Making of The Age of Stupid [14] 'Team Stupid' reveal the lengths they went to make the film.


The producers calculated the carbon footprint of the film's production to be around 95 tonnes of CO2, and its promotion around 57 tonnes.[15]


On May 22, 2009, The Age of Stupid team launched their Indie Screenings model, a new form of film distribution which allows anyone, anywhere to buy a license to hold a screening of the film - with the price set according to the screener's means - and then, crucially, to charge for tickets and keep any profits for themselves. The launch on May 22 was held at The RSA, following which there was a webcast panel discussion[16][unreliable source?] with director Franny Armstrong, journalist George Monbiot, economist Nicholas Stern, and the Met Office head of climate impacts Richard Betts. The panel discussion was around the country watched by 71 screenings.

The Indie Screenings model immediately proved extremely popular, with 682 screenings booked in the first four months, generating more than £55,000. After the cost of writing the software[clarification needed] was paid off, 100% of the proceeds goes to pay back the Crowd-Funding investors. There are no middlemen taking a cut.

From November 2009, Indie Screenings will host films by other filmmakers.


The soundtrack includes songs from Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Dragnerve and The Band of Holy Joy, as well as an original orchestral score written by Chris Brierley.

The Stupid Show

To help demystify the geo-political intricacies surrounding climate change, The Age of Stupid team staged a guerrilla production from the Copenhagen United Nations Climate Change Conference, called The Stupid Show. Franny Armstrong hosted the run of eight 40-60 minute shows which were broadcast live on the web daily from Friday December 11 until the final day of the conference, Saturday December 19. Armstrong has described The Stupid Show as 'a budget version of The Daily Show [with Jon Stewart] but much sillier and more interactive'.[17][unreliable source?]

The Stupid Show aimed to make the Copenhagen talks comprehensible to ordinary people using a mix of humour, stunts, video clips, graphic illustrations and interviews with delegates, climate change experts and activists billeted in the Danish capital for the summit. Highlights from the run included punditry from Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, an interview with author Naomi Klein and a live link-up to an underwater camera in Belize which showed how climate change is devastating coral reefs. The production team consisted of nine people, all of whom worked with Armstrong on The Age of Stupid. Key members of The Stupid Show crew include producer Lizzie Gillett, writer Mark Lynas and editor Justin Badger.[18][unreliable source?]


An offshoot of The Age of Stupid project is 10:10, a UK-wide campaign encouraging everyone in Britain to reduce their carbon emissions by at least 10 per cent during 2010. Franny Armstrong conceived the 10:10 campaign (originally called 10 by 10) to complement the ongoing promotion of her film: while The Age of Stupid is primarily aimed at raising awareness of climate change as a pending global humanitarian crisis, 10:10 is presented as a strategy for people to take positive action in the face of such an urgent and daunting problem. Although 10:10 and The Age of Stupid activities overlap in their aims and tactics, they are run as two distinct organisations, with separate teams of staff and funding structures.

See also

Sustainable Development portal
Global warming portal
Energy portal
Environment portal
Earth sciences portal


  1. ^ a b Dell, Kristina (2008-09-04). "Time Magazine article on Crowd Funding the 'Age of Stupid'". Time.com. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1838768,00.html. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  2. ^ "Solar-powered premier for film". The Press (Agence France-Presse). 2009-03-17. 
  3. ^ Robinson, Karen (2009-03-16). "Age of Stupid premiere: the green carpet treatment". guardian.co.uk. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/gallery/2009/mar/16/the-age-of-stupid-climate-change. Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  4. ^ Guardian.co.uk
  5. ^ a b Schmidle, Nicholas (2009-05-08). "Wanted: a new home for my country". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/10/magazine/10MALDIVES-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  6. ^ BBC, What the papers say October 5, 2009
  7. ^ George Monbiot (Monday 21 July 2008). "Channel 4 is deceiving itself about global warming". Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/21/climatechange.scienceofclimatechange. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  8. ^ Dave Calhoun (2009-03-19). "The Age of Stupid - Time Out Film review". Time Out. http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/86796/the-age-of-stupid.html. Retrieved 2009-12-07. 
  9. ^ James Christopher (2009-03-19). "The Age of Stupid - Times Online review". Time Out. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/film_reviews/article5932304.ece. Retrieved 2009-12-07. 
  10. ^ Sukhdev Sandhu (2009-03-19). "The Age of Stupid - Telegraph film review". Telegraph.co.uk. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturecritics/sukhdevsandhu/5016266/The-Age-of-Stupid-review.html. Retrieved 2009-12-07. 
  11. ^ The Age of Stupid at Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 2009-10-22.
  12. ^ a b Paul Byrnes (August 19, 12:15PM). "The Age of Stupid - movie review". Thevine.com.au. http://www.thevine.com.au/entertainment/reviews/the-age-of-stupid-_-movie-review.aspx. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  13. ^ Ben Jackson (2009-02-18). "Predictions from extinction movie The Age Of Stupid already happening in real life". The Sun. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/article2247547.ece. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  14. ^ Hosted exclusively by The Guardian
  15. ^ "Carbon Footprint - The Age of Stupid". Spanner Films. http://www.ageofstupid.net/carbon_footprint. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  16. ^ "Indie Screenings Launch Event". The Age of Stupid. http://www.ageofstupid.net/news/webcast_wizardry_the_rsa_indie_screenings_launch. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  17. ^ "The Stupid Show description". The Age of Stupid. http://www.ageofstupid.net/stupid-show. Retrieved 2009-12-07. 
  18. ^ "The Stupid Show crew". The Age of Stupid. http://www.ageofstupid.net/stupid-show. Retrieved 2009-12-07. 

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