Directed by Sean Blacknell and Wayne Walsh
Starring Gray Scott, Aubrey de Grey, Zoltan Istvan, Rudy Tanzi, Vivek Wadhwa, & Will Self
Documentary Film Review by Chris Olson
Battling a dialogue that is as exponentially terrifying as it is increasingly utopian, documentary film The Future of Work and Death is, as you might guess, a film of two halves. Not only do filmmakers Sean Blacknell and Wayne Walsh have to traverse a complicated narrative concerning the implications of technological advancement, but also balance the arguments in terms of outlooks, themes and prejudices. A film concerning work and death seems inherently morbid. However, these are themes, as the documentary shows, which consume our lives. We spend huge amounts of time doing the former and apprehensively awaiting the latter, so much so that a film about these concerns will not only strike a chord with a large audience, it is also essential viewing. Blacknell and Walsh construct a fervent, thriller pace to the movie, which uses talking heads, animations (provided by Walsh), pulsing techno (provided by Blacknell), archive footage and much more to put together a collage of computer-aged conundrums. The main threat being technology advancing at such a rate that humanity is ill-prepared and dangerously incapable of handling such a responsibility. Put this into the everyday context of work and death, and a compelling film doth it make.
Both filmmakers admitted to being frustrated by other attempts to tell a story such as this, that such films didn't ask the questions which they wanted to hear. They also admitted to having huge amounts of footage that had to be cut in order to slim theirs down to a svelte running time. All of which connotes a massive conversation into which they boldly go. The result is an undoubtedly forceful piece that delivers a coherent commentary on one of the most apparent yet ignored subject matters of our times. The frenetic pace and short run time is the perfect complement to a story about technology and life, adding an urgency to it that is thought-provoking and compelling. A few visual flourishes, especially in the thrilling opening sequence, are worth seeking out a big screen for but this film can largely exist on the small screen. If watching with a group, you may want to book in a bit of time after the film to allow for the inevitable philosophical debates which will ensue. Like all good documentaries, The Future of Work and Death does not attempt to answer the questions it posits, instead basking in the harrowing nature of the discussion taking place. Very little conclusions are drawn and even among the scientific, anthropological, futurist speakers which appear, no sense of specific thread really emerges, except that we all need to start thinking more about it this. Aside from a bit of missing representation (although Blacknell and Walsh apparently tried to get more female interviewees), the film does an incredible job of lobbing a grenade in front of the audience and not being afraid to leave some of the mess it leaves. The sharp commentary and biting themes are massively engaging.
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