Planetary (E) | Close-Up Film Review


Dir. Guy Reid, US, 2015, 85 mins

Cast: Janine Benyus, Ronald Garan, Joan Halifax

Due for a worldwide joint theatrical and Vimeo VOD release to celebrate Earth Day 2015, Planetary is a truly global documentary looking at life on Earth or more essentially the life ‘of’ Earth through the eyes of  experts who experience it a bit differently to the average Joe.

Astronauts, anthropologists, philosophers, tribal leaders, spiritual masters, explorers and environmentalists, all join to narrate for us their experience of a world that modern life has disconnected us from, and re-establish within us the idea that we on Earth are still a very interconnected part of one whole single living interdependent organism.

In this day and age, we perhaps take for granted our ability to watch footage featuring stunning views of the universe and our landscape and this documentary offers us nothing we haven’t seen before, except, even dulled by familiarity there’s a sumptuous feeling to appreciating so many treasures of our world in succession. The imagery of the film is given meaning with voiceover and statistics that we might understand better what it is we are seeing.

Planetary tells us that in the sixty five million years of our Earth’s existence, this moment, our moment, is the most destructive time ever. In the space of the last 300 years we have impacted our planet beyond recognition. An important part of this film is it acknowledges that despite the fact that we’re facing crisis and mass extinction, there is no going back to the place we were at before today’s society evolved.

So far, this seems a story of potential doom that we’ve all heard documented before, that we maybe worry about sometimes but don’t know how to change on a global scale. Except for the fact that Planetary digs deeper, beyond merely documenting our dilemma to lead us into understanding why it has come about and what we as individuals can do now.

The score and narration, which until this point have been a slow steady meditation to, now offers us thoughtful examination of what comes next, sometimes a bit out there with the ideology expressed by individuals but with some very hopeful realistic messages of the way forward for mankind and how each individual can impact society. And surprisingly the message isn’t one of day to day recycling or how to clean up the coastlines or prevent global warming, it’s a message that empowers us to change our story, and thus change the world. And indeed, after watching I felt less helpless and less useless to alter the course of humankind than I have in a long while.

The film structure works like an odyssey, beginning out there in the universe, traversing the lengths and breadths of our planet beneath the atmosphere, coming down to the cities the landscapes, the mountains, forests, lakes and seas, deeper in to the people everywhere and how we all live and interact, then finally leading us back out to where we began, to rejoin the universe as a permanent part of it, looking down with new eyes on our planet, which, if we can change the way we see ourselves within it, may just get to enjoy for several million years to come.

Review by Leilani Holmes

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Planetary is released in cinemas and on Vimeo on 22 April.