Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"The further the documentary progresses, the more enlightenment is strangled by hand-wringing."

There's no denying the public appetite for footage of our planet - with everything from Richard Attenborough's naturalist shows to big screen forays such as Koyaanisqatsi attracting both viewers and critical acclaim. In terms of the footage from Christopher Ferstad - which combines space station film of Earth from afar with time-lapse imagery of stars and studies of city and rural locations - Planetary also has plenty to offer.

But though Guy Reid's film is blessed by beautiful photography it is cursed by cliched, if earnest, philosophy, a repetitive circular argument and a score better suited to a spa day than an eco-documentary. Expanded from his short film Overview - which notched up more than seven million views on Vimeo - the film's best moments are when Reid returns to its themes of astronauts looking down on the planet and realising the connection between us and the rest of the universe. Astronauts including Ron Garan and Mae Jemison convey a genuine sense of enthusiasm about the idea of viewing life globally.

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The further the documentary progresses, the more enlightenment is strangled by hand-wringing. Reid has amassed an almost exhaustive roster of talking heads, from philosophers and poets through to indigenous elders and religious proponents but they all seem to have been schooled in the art of portentous delivery, so that their measured tones blur into one as the mumbo jumbo mounts. Everyone here seems to believe that we can change the world, not by doing something specific out in it but by "looking inside ourselves" in meditation. "Mindfulness is the opposable thumb of consciousness," says one contributor. It's not an idea likely to be useful in a pinch.

Encouraging audiences to slow down a bit and stop and think is something almost everyone can agree on but Reid has no interest in pushing the argument further. Instead, we are merely beaten - oh so very gently - over the head with arguments that are all concept and no practicality. The fact that the talking heads are also dominated by contributors from the US also adds to a gathering sense of insularity at odds with the global views being espoused. The best advice would be to turn the sound down after the first 20 minutes, put on a piece of music of your choice and have a think about the practical measures you might be able to take to preserve our planet as you enjoy Ferstad's stunning visuals.

Reviewed on: 23 Apr 2015
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Planetary packshot
Philosophical musings on the state of the Earth.

Director: Guy Reid

Writer: Steve Watts Kennedy

Starring: Janine Benyus, Ronald Garan, Joan Halifax, Paul Hawken, Karmapa The 17th, Elizabeth Lindsey, David Loy, Joanna Macey, Bill McKibben, Subonfu Some

Year: 2015

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: UK, US, Canada, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Nepal, Tanzania


Doc/Fest 2015

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