Now on DVD: HUMANITY FROM SPACE
Duncan Copp’s overview of mankind’s development from the perspective of space debuted on PBS last month.
Copp’s visually inventive film maps out humanity’s interconnectedness on the globe, utilizing satellite data to draw ever more complex links within and between nations and continents as it relates the story of the growth of civilization and its impact on the Earth. By design, attempting to cover 12,000 years results in a project that’s less comprehensive than it is big picture, eliding the messy particulars for more broad reflections on the past, present, and potential future of the planet. The film is also, on the whole, surprisingly – perhaps naively – optimistic. Despite touching on a swelling population, diminishing natural resources, and climate change, for example, there’s a somewhat blind trust that technological innovation will sort things out. Where Copp is more successful is in using the canvas of the globe to visualize concepts related to the growth of connectivity, such as the origins and development of the power grid; and in laying out some of the innovations that led to paradigmatic shifts in the development of civilizations, such as the shift from hunting-gathering to cultivating land, and the move of the world’s population from the country to the city. With its non-stop narration and surfeit of statistics, the ultimate impression left is of a very slick, very informative lecture – more educational than artful, but featuring some noteworthy graphics.