Right from the start, this documentary lets viewers know there will be no easy answers to the questions it's posing, as the opening query, "What is progress?" leaves some of the world's most agile minds at a loss for an answer. Co-directed by Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks, Surviving Progress is a sort of mixtape of various red-flag documentaries released over the past several years warning of irreversible ecological damage, looming food and water crises, the malfeasance of the powers that be, and how Earth and its inhabi- tants are generally on the brink of catastrophe. That's not to say that the film is pure rehash. As the filmmakers trace the evolution of the concept of debt, the ways in which technology both created and destroyed empires (Greek, Roman, Mayan) throughout history, and how the 1 percent have hoarded and controlled resources since we left the caves, the film trots out a who's-who of great thinkers—Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking, Margaret Atwood, assorted scientists and historians—who are riveting as they walk us through the question of whether we will or can survive progress. The anticapitalism prognosis is grim, and the hope offered is slim indeed.
The booming skyline of Chongqing, China.
Runs Fri., April 20-Thurs., April 26 at Varsity. Not rated. 89 minutes.