*The 11th Hour (PG)
Kimball's Twin Peak
George Clooney once said, "If celebrity is a credit card, then I'm using it," in reference to his political and social activism.
Good for him. It's refreshing to see smart celebs use their clout for something that actually matters, instead of using it to plump up the gossip coverage on what used to pass for the news.
Like Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio is racking up his celebrity charge account. He's spending on environmental issues, producing and narrating The 11th Hour. Surprisingly, it's not just a bunch of celebrity puffery or a kind of fashion-forward, chihuahua-in-a-handbag chic accessory. This is a serious, sober, straight-on, talking-head-style documentary designed to wake us all up those of us who aren't already awake and scared shitless about where the world is heading to the multi-pronged ecological and social disasters looming over humanity.
And it's absolutely terrifying.
"Not only is it the 11th hour," states one of the numerous and impressively credentialed experts here, "it's 11:59 and 59 seconds." Furthermore, this documentary, which connects the dots of the Soylent Green future we're facing if we don't do something real damn soon, acts as an alarm clock going off.
Our last, and best, chance to fix things before we render our planet uninhabitable by technological civilization or, perhaps, any level of human civilization is upon us, and the collection of policy experts, eco-aware CEOs, scientists, cultural historians and scholars, activists and others lay out the case succinctly and in a profoundly affecting way. (There's a complete list of the more than 50 interviewees at the film's official Web site, 11thhourfilm.com.)
This isn't just a litany of the interconnected catastrophes that are exploding upon us: global warming, rising population, collapsing infrastructure, the end of cheap oil, corporate hegemony, governments that ignore their citizenries. It's a powerfully emotional appeal designed to highlight just how sick our biosphere and global society are. It's a call for all of us to begin to make the changes desperately needed now to avert the end of everything we know.
That sounds both alarmist and impossible, yet the calm and hopeful voices in The 11th Hour also point out that the challenge is not a technical one, but a matter of how we think on a fundamental level. We may need to re-imagine human civilization and change how we think about ourselves and our relationship with the planet. The experts explain that this could be an exciting endeavor, if also a difficult one.
The problem with this film is the problem with all of the many similarly themed films we've seen in recent years. It will inevitably sing only to the choir in a media environment that avoids dealing with complicated issues in any way that can reach through to the mainstream.
This is the kind of film that should be broadcast on prime-time television, not relegated to arthouse cinemas. It will be up to those of us who understand the great value of these films to take this as an opportunity to spread the word to the many, many more of us who need to get the news.