Film series Climate.Culture.Change

Information about the movie package

Franny Armstrong: The Age of Stupid; Die Alpen ohne Schnee © Spanner FilmsMenschen – Träume –Taten, Deutschland 2007, Andreas Stiglmayr, © Stiglmayr Film, 90 Min.

The phenomenon of climate change is first and foremost quite definitely one thing – complex. Be it in the field of time, place or manner climate change is transcending the barriers of existing institutions, structures and cognitive horizons – a perfect example of the dissolution of boundaries. How was this able to come about? And what do we have to look forward to in the future?

The British film, The Age of Stupid, by Franny Armstrong takes a hard-hitting look at the way the human race is developing against the backdrop of global warming. The story is told from the point of view of people living in the year 2050 and with the use of “flashbacks” it skilfully combines a fictional narrative with documentary elements to show the road that led humanity into ecological disaster. The question that repeatedly springs to mind is – why didn’t we do anything to prevent our demise while we had the chance? At the same time the film not only manages to present an objective background to the problem of climate change, but it also reveals all the inner contradictions and cultural barriers that make it so difficult to take action.

The Age of Stupid: Trailers: Global Trailer w/German Subtitles from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

Alongside the facts and figures the quest to find the causes of climate change also has to incorporate a deeper, socio-psychological approach. The old German silent film, Algol – Tragödie der Macht (Algol – Tragedy of Power) highlights the culture of exploitation that has continued to influence the modern era with its trusting belief in progress right up to the present day. The film tells the story of a simple miner who is given the secret of eternal energy by a being from the planet Algol. In a frighteningly far-sighted way the film describes how the gift of such advanced technology is used only for the benefit of a few powermongers and not for the benefit of everybody else. In this way it reveals the motivation and thought patterns that prevailed throughout the industrialisation period and in effect actually pillories one of the fundamental causes of climate change. At the end of the film the few people who profited from the technology from Algol are not capable of finding any personal happiness despite all their undreamt-of riches – this is in fact the actual tragedy of the film.

The consequences for society

Global warming and a rise in sea-levels are easy to easy to calculate and have been forecast by scientists everywhere. What however are the social consequences of climate change? What is going to happen to the people who are – directly or indirectly - affected by it?

The Austrian documentary film Über Wasser (About Water) traces the course of the most vital resource for human survival. In three intensely observed episodes it depicts people who are confronted with such contrasting phenomena as drought, flooding and pollution of drinking water. Alongside the fates of the individuals in the film it reveals one thing in particular – the most dramatic effects of climate change are to be found in regions that are the least to blame for the problem. This implicitly leads to the question of global justice.

The British-French co-production, Before the Flood – Tuvalu is all about the Pacific island of Tuvalu that in just a few decades will vanish from the face of the earth due to climate change. Once the third poorest country in the world, Tuvalu sold its internet domain, “tv”, in the 1990s and brought a veritable wave of affluence to its shores that was to ensure a better way of life for its 10,000 inhabitants. The wave also brought the “American Way of Life” along with all its waste of resources. In an ironically melancholic tone the film describes the potency of the modern Western lifestyle. Yet at the same time it shows how difficult it is to resist the short-term benefits of consumerism for the sake of a better quality of life in the long-term – even when the negative effects are literally right on your own doorstep.

What can we do?

Climate change is a challenge of such global proportions, the solutions to which have to be found not only by individuals, but also by society as a whole. What however can we do? How can we change our values, our awareness and way of life in the face of new developments in the world of technology? In other words – how can we advance on a cultural level?

In his film “Recipes for Disaster” the documentary filmmaker, John Webster, invites us to be part of an experiment he set up himself – how to lead a life with as little CO2 output as possible. For a period of one year he and his family attempted to reduce the size of their carbon footprint to a globally accepted level. In a humorous and authentic way he describes all the trials and tribulations he came up against on an everyday basis, as well as all the new freedoms he discovered in the process. The film not only shows the obvious discrepancy between people’s lifestyles at the moment and the lifestyle envisaged for the future, but also the possible benefits that would accompany a change. The transition, so to speak, from having to being.

An alternative to the consumerism of the modern era also comes in the form of Andi Stiglmayr’s work, Menschen – Träume – Taten (People – Dreams – Deeds). It focuses on a self-governing ecological community in the East of Germany in which the people try to turn their utopian dream of living an autonomous and environmentally compatible life into reality. Alongside all the organisational and financial obstacles, they are also confronted with certain social difficulties for it is particularly hard to strike a balance between one’s individual needs and the group needs of the community. Nevertheless most of the community’s residents can no longer imagine themselves leading any other lifestyle. Realising their dream gives them no end of strength – a strength that is much envied by others.

With its six full-length feature films and seven short films the Klima. Kultur. Wandel series embraces a broad spectrum ranging from the causes to the solutions, from the individual to the society, from the local to the global. One thing becomes quite clear – the “carry-on-as-usual” approach is no longer acceptable. The films also show however that change can also bring about opportunities that were unheard of before. For example, if all the actions taken by individuals are convincing enough, they will become culturally relevant.


13 films in total (6 full-length features and 7 shorts).

Production countries: Germany, Finland, Austria, Luxembourg, Great Britain, France, GDR. Genres: documentary, feature film, short film, animated film

Versions: German, English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Ukrainian, Indonesian.

The film series is being shown within the framework of the cultural work done by the Goethe-Institut all over the world. The films are available on DVD in the film archives of the Goethe Institutes, where they can be borrowed and ordered.

In addition to the film series a list of recommended films on the subject of “climate change” has been compiled that includes a number of other productions worth seeing. The list includes over 40 films from countries all over the world (incl. Brazil, Mexico, USA, India, Russia).

Michael Greif
is head of the ECOMOVE International office in Hamburg where he is responsible, among other things, for media and communication projects, the curating of film series, as well as media consulting in the field of sustainability.

Translation: Paul McCarthy
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
December 2009

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