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The 11th Hour

USA 2006
Directed by
Leila Conners Petersen / Nadia Conners
91 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

The 11th Hour

Synopsis: Planet Earth is in major trouble. Thanks to the impact of humans not only is the climate changing but countless species are becoming extinct. Humans too could face extinction. Are these changes permanent and irrevocable or can something be done before it is too late?

With climate change the words on everyone’s lips, documentaries like this cannot come at a better time. The 11th Hour, narrated by Leonardo di Caprio, looks at the broad view – how over the years the planet has changed and species have naturally become extinct and how the recent history of human existence especially since industrialisation and the coming of oil has caused disaster.

The film-makers interviewed 71 people, shooting 150 hours of footage. From this they got 90 minutes of film, with 54 specialists speaking out on the topic.  The roster of talking heads is plentiful – from well known identities like Stephen Hawking, Michael Gorbachev and David Suzuki to unknown oceanographers, leaders of environmental groups, Indian shamans, green architects, the list goes on.

Those interviewed have powerful things to say – for me especially one who suggested that the earth itself will probably regenerate and has all the time in the world – but that we as a species don’t. Some talk in depth of the damage rampant consumerism does, while others consider how the oil-driven corporate ruled society has in a in a mere 200 years depleted a resource that took billions of years to create. Others say that by trying to possess the world we lose all appreciation of its beauty and our symbiotic relationship with nature. Nature is seen as a resource, one that is infinite, when in fact it’s not. Many of the interviewees bring a fresh perspective to the problem and it makes for an intense hour and a half.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Rays of hope are held out by those who speak of the possibilities of carbon-neutral cities, designs that mirror nature, alternative forms of energy, finding a “killer app” to defeat the need for oil, but, most of all, getting people to change their mind-set to be more frugal and to force governments to legislate for a more pro-environmental society.

It’s interesting to compare The 11th Hour with Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth which was released the same year. Whereas Gore gave us many cogent statistics this film seems to hit harder at an emotional level.. The opening images are quite frightening. We are bombarded with images of so many devastating things happening on our planet that when eventually the talking heads start backing these images up with facts it nearly moved me to tears. Di Caprio is perhaps not as persuasive a presence as Gore, and some would argue that a) he is unnecessary and b) this is manipulative emotion-based film-making. But if it moves people to take action, then I say, bring it on!!




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