Published Dec 01, 2011Judging by virtually every documentary given a theatrical release in the last five years, there's an unspoken, solipsized ideological stance required for documentarians that's both preachy and sanctimonious in its presumed nobility, despite being little more than desultory white noise in a socially acceptable, idealistic form. We'll call it the Sean Penn principle, wherein moderately educated, but emotionally limited, people are inspired by a Facebook snippet of an issue and feel compelled to build their image around it, being so much better and more aware than everyone else, even though they've only considered things from one perspective. Or perhaps this is just a sharp documentarian business sense, realizing that trendy urbanites looking to watch a doc are most likely just looking for slogans and context-free factoids to toss out at insipid cocktail parties and networking functions.
Surviving Progress, a Quebecois exercise in reiterating the obvious, posits the dangers of exponential progress, citing the advancements in medicine, technology and civilization ever since the industrial age as unsustainable. Apparently, people are inherently greedy, wanting more and more, crapping out kids ad nauseum without any foresight or bigger picture thinking. And instead of dismissing us as cancerous parasites ― something not far from reality ― this "optimistic" doc suggests that our brains are simply stuck in the same hunter/gatherer stage as cavemen. It's sort of like chimps, only we have the power to ask, "why?" Who knew?
After bitching about economics and bankers for about half-an-hour, missing the entire point of their argument, which suggests that there's an inherent problem with human thinking, not just bankers and stockbrokers, they go on to say that humanity needs to change. Seriously, they merely point out that we "need to change." There's no speculation as to how we should change, nor is there any insight about the linkage between dominant modes of socialization (entitlement, specialness, selfishness) and our historical tendency to implode repeatedly.
And since the arguments and glorified slideshow points are disorganized and awkwardly tangential, jumping from Wall Street to the Roman Empire to chimpanzees, we don't get a great deal more from the doc than the sense that noble, unfocused stances are the cat's meow. And while being keen on the environment and noting that greed is bad all sounds good in a soapbox sort of way, Surviving Progress would have been better if it merely suggested that the key to changing human behaviour involved training people to consider things from all angles, even the unseemly and politically incorrect ones, before preaching their crap at the world or regurgitating broad ideologies.
Instead of making documentaries, Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks might be better served standing in a park with a protest sign bitching about the symptoms of a disease rather than the cause, with no self-awareness. At least then we wouldn't have to dish out money to have their perspective shoved down our throats. (Alliance)