Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Our Home

This is not a review of the best documentary I have ever seen. I will not write a conventional review because a review can never express the range of emotions that I felt while watching this movie. Further, a review should be impartial and objective. I can never be objective about a movie like Yann Arthus-Bertrand's "Home" and weigh its good and bad points, because the overall message of the movie is so strong that it becomes more important than everything else.

Not that there is a lot to weigh. With breathtaking aerial views of the earth from 54 countries, Armand Amar's truly global music and moving narration, Home has depicted our planet in a way that I have never seen being done before. From the Arctic pack-ice to the Australian grasslands, from the Masai village on the savanna to the skyscrapers of Dubai, from the rain forests of Costa Rica to the permafrost covered Siberia, from water-guzzling Las Vegas to the parched villages of Rajasthan, Home may have just created the most complete picture of our planet. It is something that we could proudly send across the universe to other civilizations to tell them about us.

Did I just say “proudly?” Scratch that out. Watching Home made me hang may head in shame. It brought tears to my eyes. Shame for being a specimen of Homo sapiens. Tears of sadness on seeing what our greed has done to our mother planet. And this is where Home is different from many other documentaries on similar topics that I have seen on National Geographic or Discovery Channel. Home is not a neutral narration of events happening on earth. Home has a message to give us, a plea that we have ignored for too long. We, some of the newest creatures to walk the face of this planet have defaced it in such a way that no other creature in history ever dreamt of. If another intelligent species unacquainted with humans were to watch Home, they would surely make sure that none of us ever reached their planet.

Home deals with most of the evils that mankind brought with them – climate change, global warming, deforestation, erosion, droughts, species becoming extinct, ever-widening economic gap between the rich and the poor. As the movie says, “Everything is linked.” It also provides us with beautiful visuals of pristine lands unaltered by our filthy hands. Home directly points a finger towards the developed nations with their wasteful and over-indulgent lifestyles and tells them to mend their ways, or suffer. Watching this movie truly makes us realize that we human beings are like cancer cells on the planet.

Watching Home also made me more proud of being a citizen of a third world country than I have ever been. India ranks among the topmost nations where spending on renewable energy sources are concerned, and Indians (along with the inhabitants of other poor Asian and African nations) have some of the smallest carbon footprints in the world. We still live close to nature, and with nature. That does not mean that we won’t suffer, of course. The ultra-consumerist lifestyle of the West (of which I have been guilty of lately) is killing the planet. When it goes, nobody will be spared. Unfortunately, that seems very likely given the number of abusive comments on the movie’s YouTube page screaming that global warming in a myth.

The movie was released on June 5th this year in theatres, TV and on the Internet simultaneously. I found it on YouTube. Here is the link. (A word of caution to viewers with slow Internet connections: it is over an hour and a half long and high definition video, so it may get stuck. Also, its actual size is around 1 GB. So if you have a limited-download-quota Internet line, be careful.) This kind of release was needed to reach the maximum number of people. Who spends money to go and watch a documentary in a theatre? They might watch it on TV, but then it leaves out people like me who live off the Internet. And the makers of Home wanted to pass on this warning to as many people as possible which they were able to do this way.

But most importantly, Home passes on a message of hope. Along with showing us the mistakes that we made, it also shows us the way forward. It tells us how we have the power, even now, to change things for better. It tells us how people around the world have ignored pessimistic views and made miracles happen. We just need to act and spread the word.

That’s what I am doing. Not writing a review. Just spreading the word.

(Update: The movie was available on YouTube only till 15th July, so the first link will not work anymore.)

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