In his new documentary film, Revolution, Rob Stewart takes us on a deep-water dive into the Coral Sea surrounding Australia and Papua New Guinea and on a trek through the jungles of Madagascar to demonstrate the effects of Earth’s changing ecosystems. While he succeeds in capturing the vulnerability and beauty of our oceans and forests, he fails to delve deeper into the challenges of environmental preservation that face our quickly growing human population.
Stewart skillfully captures the stunning beauty of the underwater world — he takes many long tracking shots of whales and sharks and extreme close-ups of coral and sea anemone. The picture quality of this film is nothing less than what is expected from the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s chief photographer.
However, the bright, wide-angle shots of the natural environment are juxtaposed with dim shots of animal slaughter and polluted Alberta oil sands. His comparison is one-dimensional, static and based mostly on negative stereotypes of corporations and governments. He does not consider the perspectives of industrial leaders and the challenges they face, nor does he consider the perspective of the thousands of workers whose livelihoods depend on the burgeoning oil sands.
Furthermore, he fails to share the opinion of marginalized people who often depend on the environment for their survival — indigenous people of Papua New Guinea are shown, but their opinions are not voiced. By failing to consider other truths, he potentially loses support from people who do not share his polarized views. His foreboding message is repeated throughout the film, but its message never really hits home.
The tempo steadily increases throughout the film and the background music gets progressively louder to provoke anxiety and tension. At the climax of the film, Stewart is engaged with a crowd of activists at the Climate Change Conference in Mexico. He videotapes the group shouting “shame on you” at conference delegates and a child is screaming and crying. The attempts to make the scene emotional fall flat and come off as egotistical and self-serving. Many of those delegates are leaders who have devoted their entire lives to solving these issues of environmental justice. It is easy for outsiders to preach the closing of coal manufacturing doors when their jobs are not directly affected.
While this film is purposeful in raising outrage and disdain for industrialists and the government, it did not answer the most perplexing and pertinent question of our time: how can each of us, as inhabitants of the industrial world, reduce our footprint in an age of mass consumerism? The real revolution must take place within ourselves and be exhibited through the actions of our everyday lives, not by carrying out mass demonstrations — through recycling, reducing our vehicle emissions, what we choose to eat and the clothes we choose to buy.
Emotional sentiment and screams of panic will not benefit the environment. It is becoming more important to deal with these concerns logically and to tread carefully through these complex and multidimensional issues. Stewart’s failure to consider alternative perspectives renders his movie ineffective and I will forget the details of this dramatic tale within a week’s time.
In a moment of clarity, he admits that he emitted twice the amount of carbon emissions than the average American during the production of his film, which is about 80 times that of someone from Africa. This confession makes me wonder whether the world would have been better off if he had just stayed at home.