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Planetary

Year: 2015
Production Co: Planetary Collective
Director: Gary Reid
Writer: Steve Watts Kennedy

On the tin, Planetary is a documentary about the damage we're doing to our environment, so you might be tempted to skip it if you've already seen An Inconvenient Truth, Gasland and A Crude Awakening. In actual fact it contains very little of that sort of thing. Planetary has a new message about environmentalism and uses new methods to impart it.

The new message isn't about how much energy we're using or how many lobbyists are pumping billions into the political system to keep the polluters pulling the strings.

It's about how the modern world conspires to convince us that we're separate from or somehow above the rest of nature, and how we need to change the essential discourses that drive our society (both as individuals and a population) to remind us we're actually part of it.

Some of that's the kind of folk wisdom you've heard before (and felt yourself) about how when you're exposed to the natural environment instead of sitting in air conditioning staring at screens all day, your stress levels drop. Some of it's from very high-minded philosophers about how we have to change the whole human story away from individual achievement and economic advantage.

The talking heads assembled for the film come from every discipline even remotely connected to environmentalism. Biologists, ethicists, astronauts, Native American tribal leaders and philosophers all come together to give their take on how we're all connected not just with the Earth but the rest of the universe and how it's got us into this mess.

From about half to two-thirds of the way through you also start to realise Planetary is about more than just science, and the poetic mysticism of interviewees from the spiritual end of the spectrum like Buddhist monks and native shamans might put you off if you were expecting science, or even answers.

The method Planetary uses to impart the message is imagery, and while some of it's very generic, some of it's unique and spectacular. It's roughly divided into sections that deal with different aspects of the argument, and the first section in particular is something to see as ISS and NASA crew members talk about and show some of the most epic space and orbital imagery ever.

Some of the visuals are almost high-grade screen saver material – you could just about turn the volume down and just enjoy the sights (although the haunting choral soundtrack and soft voices of the participants are just as soporific).

In the end the point seems to be to make you believe whatever Planetary is saying simply by showing you how beautiful the Earth is, something that's pretty easy to forget today.

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