ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Sometimes, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch feels like a loftier, artier and much more sobering Transformers sequel, what with its fixation on the monstrously huge machines that chomp into the planet and unsettle our ailing ecosystem for the sake of commerce. But documentarian Jennifer Baichwal and her globe-trotting fellow directors Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky are on a mission to take us to places where horrible harm is likely taking place but also acknowledging odd moments of scenic beauty in how the earth has been manipulated by mankind.

The best thing about this trip around the world is that we are protected from whatever frightful toxins and poisons seem to lurk about in several locales. One can’t help but have mixed feelings about the sights we are exposed to: piles of ivory elephant tusks burning in Nairobi as sort of a ceremony to the majestic animals who died for our sins; drone photography of yellow and green plots found on lithium farms in Chile; to the careful cutting of gorgeous Italian marble; and a nasty metal smelting factory in Norilsk, an area that holds the title of Russia’s most polluted city – notable by the lack of oxygen in the air and the dearth of greenery.

Oscar-winning actress Alicia Vikander acts as an occasional narrator, stating such facts as “Eighty-five percent of forests have been degraded through human use” as if reading from a textbook. Also, a few locals and workers in the areas visited are allowed to fill in some blanks now and then. But this one of those docs that is built on the notions that seeing is believing and actions speak louder than words.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for October 4, 2019

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Susan Wloszczyna

Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.