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Berlinale Bloggers 2019
‘2040’: A call for change

'2040'. | © Hugh Miller

As he did with 2014’s ‘That Sugar Film’, Australian actor-turned-filmmaker Damon Gameau proves a convincing cine-activist in ‘2040’

By Sarah Ward

Making an impassioned argument in his second documentary, he once again writes, directs and places himself in front of the lens and frames his feature from a personal perspective — all while exploring the repercussions of his important topic on both intimate and universal levels.


Gameau’s subject: climate change. This time, it’s not just his health that’s at stake, but the entire planet that we all call home. Contemplating the world that’ll be inherited by his daughter Velvet in 21 years time — and structuring the movie as a letter to the now four-year-old — Gameau explores solutions for a brighter future.
Tackling humanity’s biggest threat, Gameau ponders what an ideal version of the year 2040 might look like. The one crucial caveat: everything that he proposes must employ technology that’s available today. This isn’t science fiction or wishful thinking, but logical extrapolation. If community-level solar micro-grids become the norm, the need to burn carbon-emitting fossil fuels diminishes. Similarly, if driverless ride-sharing vehicles become entrenched as a communal form of transport, cars, the oil they require, and the roads and parking lots they demand will all subside. Journeying around the globe, Gameau meets with experts leading the way, whether creating new agricultural methods that are kinder on both soil and livestock, or trialling mass seaweed plantations for multiple eco-friendly uses.
'2040'. '2040'. | © Dane Scotcher
The details are never less than informative, whether asking today’s kids about their concerns, spouting vital facts about the status quo or explaining potentially world-changing concepts. Aiming for a wide, all-ages audience — the film screens in Berlinale’s Generation Kplus lineup out of competition — 2040 is carefully crafted to deliver its data in an engaging fashion. Stylish visualisations and live-action imaginings of the future (featuring Eva Lazzaro as a grown Velvet) relay essential points, the latter with a sense of humour. Enlivening one of the most routine documentary mainstays, the feature’s talking heads are miniaturised to fit into surroundings relevant to the topic, driving a Monopoly car around the game while discussing economics or sitting atop a wind turbine while chatting about energy.


Always lively, 2040 nonetheless inspires a bittersweet feeling that has nothing to do with its presentation. More than once, Gameau mentions the enormous obstacle blocking many of his proposed changes — for the highlighted technologies to become commonplace, the energy, food production and transport sectors all need to adapt; however their current focus on profits may keep dictating otherwise. That truth doesn’t detract from 2040, although it does give the documentary a glass half-full/glass half-empty air. Championing an aspirational message that stands apart from the doom and gloom surrounding climate change, Gameau hopes to help viewers subscribe to the first camp — and goes far towards achieving that aim.