Planet of the Humans

(2019) YouTube

The Story

“100% Clean Energy”, “Green Friendly”, “A Focus on Sustainability”….have you seen a company boasting these phrases or something similar? Well, Jeff Gibbs wants you to think long and hard about a company’s claim of being green friendly.

Gibbs, who wrote and directed Planet of the Humans, calls into question some of the major players in the green movement, primarily in the alternative energy field. As you watch Planet of the Humans, you’ll find that there tends to be a friendly connection between organizations that should be at odds with each over. Gibbs highlights several green energy companies that have routinely accepted large amounts of money from the very companies they are looking to protect the earth against.

The first time we see the contradiction of the two energy camps is at a solar energy festival in Vermont. The festival was suppose to be ran completely off of solar power. Unfortunately, solar panels are far from ideal in inclement weather. In order to combat interruptions to the power supply, the festival plugged all their equipment into the common electrical grid.

The festival is just one example of the green energy movement’s reliance on natural gas or coal to increase their efficiency. Planet of the Humans feature scenes of Gibbs questioning employees from General Motors, the Sierra Club, the 350 Movement, and other major players, about their dependency on non-green friendly energy. For each question Gibbs ask, it’s typically met with a puzzled look and an answer that avoids the question.

Gibbs goes on to showcases a number of other alternative energy sources and how there is still a reliance on damaging procedures to obtain enough energy for to be efficient.

Gibbs may have simply summed up Planet of the Humans in his own words: “is it possible that machines are made by industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?”.

The District Decision

Do I get what Gibbs is going for in Planet of the Humans? Yes. Do I like his approach? Not in particular.

Gibbs brings to the surface a real issue in global politics, money. With enough research, chances are the findings would show that a large number of organizations or companies are a bit, how do we say it– “crooked”. As it relates to Planet of the Humans, you’ll see that organizations whose missions include finding sources of renewable energy and sustainability, have accepted large donations (or worked in partnership) with some of the biggest players in the contribution to global warming and pollution. I honestly appreciate the idea behind pulling back the curtains on these organizations, but I do not agree with the way it was executed. Planet of the Humans attempted to discredit nearly everyone featured in the documentary with chopped up audio and visuals.

One of the fatal flaws of issue driven documentaries is that they tend to be one sided and push only one agenda (duh…that’s the point). As I watched Planet of the Humans, I couldn’t help but feel like there were some things they did not want us to hear. At points there were video clips of interviews where you would hear an answer supportive/unsupportive of Gibbs’s thought for the scene, then it was quickly cut or had Gibbs’s voice dubbed over so you couldn’t hear the full answer. The film was also full of “shock” videos like the destruction of a 500 year old Yucca plant, how we know the age of this plant is never shown. If you make a documentary showing how skewed organizations or groups can be when pushing their agenda, I believe you should show some references to your “shock” images to avoid looking like part of the problem.

By far my biggest issue with Planet of the Humans was the fact that there appeared to be an all or nothing agenda. The documentary attacked all forms of energy: solar, wind, coal, natural gas…none of them were safe from criticism. Gibbs’s concerns were valid and touched on points that aren’t often brought up, however no solutions were ever discussed. Planet of the Humans simply pointed to the portions of an energy form that still had problems to work out. Whether Gibbs’s points were valid or not, the problem is still how do we get from point A to point B. It’s my feeling that anyone can point to flaws in a topic, but that alone won’t solve all the issues, there must be a road of corrective actions. Resolutions to these flaws must be a group effort that someone with Gibbs’s knowledge participates in.

We can not afford to nix every form of alternative energy just because it’s not a perfect fix. Gibbs’s documentary did a terrific job showing that careful articulation and calculations must be done in the race to find efficient alternative energy. Simply not doing anything while we wait on a perfect alternative may put us several steps behind…doing the exact thing that Planet of the Humans was created to avoid.

Final Grade: The District Decision for Planet of the Humans is that the film is Niche with a final grade of C.

The District Decision Grading Scale: Skip It (not worth the watch), Niche (worth the watch for those interested in the topic), Background Noise (worth having on while doing other activities), Worth It (worth your time), Classic (one of the best examples of the documentary genre).

Director(s)Jeff Gibbs
Distributor Rumble Media, YouTube
Run Time100 Minutes
Year2019

More about The Documentary District: We are a team dedicated to reviewing documentary films and shows in an effort to promote independent film making. We also provide information on where to stream new documentaries as they become available. If you are a film maker and want us to review or feature your work, you can E-mail us at DocumentaryDistrict@gmail.com.

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