Film note: If the zebras get it, why don’t we?


Everyone remembers the 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth—perhaps because of its connection to Al Gore, perhaps because of its Academy Award win for Best Documentary, or hopefully, if they weren’t lost in all the hype, the disturbing facts the film presented about global warming.

The Planet is screening as part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival on April 24 at St. Anthony Main, Minneapolis. For information and tickets ($9), see

The Planet, one of the documentaries offered in this year’s Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, takes this topic and gives it an urban feel by not concentrating on what’s going on with glaciers (although that is touched upon briefly) but rather focusing on densely-populated areas. By examining how these communities are affecting our globe, the documentary is able to achieve what Al Gore’s movie didn’t: it puts us, the people, the residents, the consumers, at center stage and forces us to examine how our greediness has had lasting negative effects on our planet.

To rate and comment on The Planet and every other film in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, see

The movie takes us around the world—Kenya, Brazil, Spain, India, China, and Portugal, to name a few places. Where An Inconvenient Truth was Gore’s lecture about global warming, The Planet feels more like a hip music video. With amazing montages accompanied by trance-like soundbeats, the film is a cinematographic gem. Over some of these images (which are quite compelling—for example, a zebra looking lost as it stands in front of a construction site) appear facts and figures reminding us that it’s up to us as a global community to do something about what’s going on.

For example, it’s disturbing to learn that over the last century, the total number of vertebrates has been cut in half—yet during the same time, the total number of humans has quadrupled. With the world’s current population of 6 billion people likely to increase to 9 billion by 2050, how are we going to find resources when, from an environmental standpoint, we’re already spending more than we make?

As viewers, we expect to learn information like that in a film like this. We know we’re going to learn disturbing information regarding how we’re hurting the planet, that it’s time to take action, that we’re all in this together, and so on. However, The Planet takes an artistic approach to the issue: it’s not as much about the information on the screen or the experts sharing it as it is a visual feast of the beauty of our planet. Many images linger for quite some time on the screen, compelling us to really sit back and see what we’re tampering with.

The Planet is one of those documentaries that should be required viewing for all. Too often, movies such as this end up being primarily viewed by those who already believe in the cause. Perhaps its inclusion in this year’s festival will help it reach the wide audience it deserves. Hopefully, viewers will share that zebra’s puzzlement, and wonder themselves why this destruction is happening all around them.

Stephen Sporer works at Macalester College in St. Paul and has reviewed films for KTFM, San Antonio’s most popular radio station. He recently moved to the Twin Cities from New York, where he studied theater at Sarah Lawrence College as well as acting and singing at a wide range of venues.