by Marieke Berkers
We live in a divided world. On the one hand, mankind is causing the planet’s climate and nature to develop in alarming ways. Mankind has come to dominate the development of the planet to such a degree that scientists have coined a term for the age in which we live: the Anthropocene. On the other hand, more and more people are sounding the alarm, and awareness of the problems facing us is growing. Films that provide visual evidence of the existence of the Anthropocene make a significant contribution in this area. This edition of AFFR is screening numerous works of this kind. Stories that help us fathom the challenges at stake and stimulate the search for alternative ways to treat our planet. A task in which there is an important role to play for architects, urban designers and landscape architects.
All films make clear that an ‘apocalypse’ is no longer approaching but has already arrived. Dutch photographer Kadir van Lohuizen, for example, with his series of films about rising sea levels, shows that the people of Bangladesh are already up to their necks in water.
So it’s no surprise that documentary makers increasingly resort to imagery from the disaster movie genre to capture that reality. For instance, the documentary Anthropocene: The Human Epoch starts with the image of a huge inferno. A symbolic warning: the world is on fire. If the theme wasn’t so alarming, the film could be considered beautiful. Because for Anthropocene, filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky zoom in on the epic reality produced in an age dominated by mankind: deep mines that reduce people to ants, staggeringly huge factory complexes, and farmland that stretches beyond the horizon.
The film Soyalism by Enrico Parenti and Stefano Liberti demonstrates that the systems devised by mankind under the guise of progress have often become infinitely complex. This documentary captures in detail how our food chain has become a messed-up system that spans almost the entire world. Moreover, the advantages — cheap meat and high profits from the mass production of meat — lead many people to turn a blind eye to the disadvantages — polluted groundwater and the clearance of rainforests.
What is the price of this ‘progress’? And who is paying the price? That is the question posed by Jasmin Herold and Michael Beamish in the film Dark Eden after they arrive in Fort McMurray in northern Canada. Here lies the largest oil-related industrial site in the world. In the end, their search unintentionally results in a real disaster movie. For they experience a true apocalypse first hand. A warning that mankind still has little control over very many processes in life.
That those processes can sometimes produce fascinating results is demonstrated by the documentary Natura Urbana by Matthew Gandy. He shows how Berlin’s ‘Brachen’ — vacant patches of land in the city created by wartime bombs and the division between East and West Berlin — have produced a wealth of biodiversity. Nature is everywhere, interlaced with even the darkest pages of the city’s history, as this film illustrates. But the result is beautiful: a laboratory for botanists and an oasis of calm for city dwellers. As the filmmaker himself says: ‘A marvel of non-design’.
Natura Urbana: The Brachen of Berlin
Saturday Oct 12, 16:45
Goethe Institut Event
Friday Oct 11, 23:00
Friday Oct 11, 16:30
Introduction by Marieke Berkers
Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
Saturday Oct 12, 21:00
Lost in Transition with Kadir van Lohuizen
Friday Oct 11, 21:15