Aussie filmmaker Damon Gameau (That Sugar Film) is, like many of us, concerned about the direction the planet is heading. In this refreshingly optimistic documentary, as sea levels rise and temperatures soar, he sets out to discover potential solutions to the problems of climate change and a growing population, and paint a picture of how the world might look in a couple of decades if we embraced these solutions today.
There’s no denying that Gameau’s heart is in the right place. The film revolves around his concern for the world his 4-year-old daughter Velvet will grow up in, and regularly jumps forwards in time to a ‘pre-enactment’ of what that world might look like if we get our act together. It’s a cleaner, greener world of autonomous ride-sharing vehicles, pedestrianised superhighways, and more seaweed salads than you can shake a stick at. And, for the most part, it’s pretty engaging stuff.
“The 2040 Gameau shows us is one of flexible iPads, VR glasses, and old people doing yoga. It all just feels a little bit Black Mirror.”
Unfortunately, the film is sometimes tainted by an ideological bent that noticeably glosses over many awkward nuances in the subject matter. Its use of music was noticeably manipulative, with dark clashing chords sounding over scenes of feedlot cattle and colossal traffic jams, and light, airy vocals singing out at shots of ‘nature’ (not that there’s anything natural about a farm, however organic.)
The future Gameau paints is also very much concerned with life in the first-world. Although he visits a remarkable Bangladesh solar-powered community, the fact that Africa is expected to see the vast majority of the world’s population growth in the 21st century is not addressed. Instead, the 2040 Gameau shows us is one of flexible iPads, VR glasses, and old people doing yoga. It all just feels a little bit Black Mirror.
As a piece of optimistic cinema, perhaps it’s to be expected that 2040 is quite heavily one-sided – Gameau completely ignores the fact, for instance, that ‘Driver’ is currently the job-title of hundreds of millions of people, whose livelihoods are likely to be threatened by autonomous vehicles. This fact doesn’t negate Gameau’s compelling argument that car-ownership is likely to see a radical transformation in the coming decades, but the fact that he avoids ever playing devil’s advocate actually serves to weaken his position.
All in all, 2040 is worth seeing. It raises plenty of interesting questions and offers some exciting solutions, and at times it’s a breath of fresh air in a world of endless negative press. Its utopian idealism gives the impression that Gameau is frequently trying to cover up holes in his arguments for the sake of telling a good story, but more often than not I found myself engaged and excited by its optimism and faith in humanity.