Steve Bradshaw, an Emmy award-winning journalist and filmmaker, has written, presented, directed, or edited over 150 radio and TV documentaries. After presenting John Peel’s favorite radio show, he was a correspondent for BBC TV’s Newsnight and Panorama for 30 years. More recently he has written, directed, and series-produced documentaries for BBC World, TVE and Al Jazeera. He was the first TV journalist to make films about the politics of global warming and is internationally known as an investigative journalist. Steve began working on Anthropocene – his first feature film – when the Anthropocene Working Party was established over five years ago.
Anthropocene had its U.S. premiere at the 24th Annual Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital. The film screening took place at National Museum of Natural History on Saturday, March 26th at 4pm.
DCEFF: How did you get involved in film-making?
STEVE BRADSHAW: I’ve made over 60 TV documentaries from around the world – as a BBC correspondent as well as director – and Anthropocene is my first cinema feature documentary. I made some of the first films about global warming in the 80s, and presented the BBC’s first environmental series on radio. A lot of these films were chapters in the Big Story which Anthropocene gave me a chance to tell….
DCEFF: What drew you to this particular project?
SB: I fell in love with the word! I wanted to find out what it meant! I’m still trying to find out what it means! Literally it means a geological epoch in which humankind is the primary influence. But determining if that’s true is one for the geologists. What I wanted to find out is what the Anthropocene means for humanity. If you tell the story in a cinema – if you immerse yourself and watch it fast forward – is it a tragedy or comedy or something more surreal? If it was a science fiction story would we laugh, cry or be angry? Have we made the planet a better or worse place for us to live in?
What thrilled me was the idea of a film about the environment that wasn’t a single issue narrative (God knows I’ve been lucky to be involved in some good ones). What’s more, I think ecology once regarded any human presence as an intrusion, and the Green Movement tended not to recognize that we are deliberately creating an artificial planet.
I’ve made a number of films in Rio. Sometimes, looking down from the Corcovado, I’ve despaired at what we’ve done to this beautiful landscape, spoiling the seas, pouring concrete over the hills, like we’re some termite colony. Other times, the samba music drifting up, sunlight on the lagoon. I think wow what a beautiful world we’ve made. I wanted Anthropocene to help me decide which is the more truthful response…
And finally, as a storyteller, I liked the idea of a fable whose narrators – our Anthropocene scientists – take a subtly different view of its meaning…. reflecting, if you like, the different and sometimes contradictory ways I reckon most of us view how we’ve re-engineered our planet.
DCEFF: How do you hope audiences will receive your film?
SB: Has anyone told the story of our effect on the planet in a cinema in 90 minutes before? If they have, I haven’t seen it. I really want to know how people react to that story. Maybe viewers will agree with at least two of our scientists who fear human extinction. But others working on the Anthropocene are more optimistic. At one private university screening, viewers organized an impromptu poll – pessimist or optimist? There was a two thirds majority but I won’t bias anyone’s viewing by saying which way!
DCEFF: What’s the one takeaway you want potential viewers to walk away with?
SB: It’s our story. Help write it. As one of our interviewees says “…the Anthropocene is like a common narrative.” In a time of fundamentalisms, that may be useful.
DCEFF: What’s the next project in your pipeline?
SB: Humanity has voted with its feet – and decided to live mostly in cities. Our leaders didn’t see this coming. And our cities are joining up, virtually, in a neural network called the Internet. Look at the Earth one side, during the day, it’s The Blue Planet. The other side, by night, it’s the Illuminated Planet. One scientist involved with Anthropocene reckons living in cities – not living like cyborgs – will determine our next evolutionary step. So imagine a science fiction story called Anthropolis…
Register for the Anthropocene screening here.