Peter Webber uncovers new film Ten Billion
by Vitor Pinto
- The British director’s documentary warns about the threats of overpopulation and climate change
British director Peter Webber (Girl With a Pearl Earring [+see also:
film profile]) attended the FEST New Directors / New Films for a master class organised during the Training Ground (read news). Webber’s presence in Espinho also provided Portuguese viewers with an opportunity to discover his latest film, Ten Billion [+see also:
For nearly two hours, the outspoken filmmaker talked to the audience about his 25 years of experience, which he spent mostly between Hollywood and the UK, making fiction and mainstream features and lower-budget documentaries.
“Directing is getting your own way. It’s about manipulating things to get your vision on screen as much as you can!”, said Webber, “But talent isn’t enough. There is so much politics behind the scene. You need to be as good at politics as you are at directing”.
When asked how he relates to the documentary genre in particular, Webber answered that “in terms of production it is easier and cheaper; you tend to have more room for manoeuvre when you work on a low budget and on documentaries.” That was seemingly the case for his latest account, Ten Billion, a HanWay production that sends a warning message about overpopulation and climate change.
In Ten Billion, Webber filmed a lecture by renowned Scientist Stephen Emmott (Head of Computational Science at Microsoft Research in Cambridge) exposing the tragic fate awaiting our planet if the world population continues to grow (up to ten billion people estimated by the end of the 21st century) and if political leaders continue to fail to tackle environmental issues. After an introduction featuring interviews, and an overview of Emmott’s team, the film then focuses exclusively on a speech by the scientist.
“Personally, the challenge of the film was how to portray a lecture given by someone who doesn’t have stage presence.” says Webber. To do so, he decided to interrupt Emmott’s at times obscure and anxious delivery with archive images of the green revolution, melting icebergs, the consequences of desertification and the overconsumption of modern societies, among other issues – all of which put together make for a pessimistic, yet realistic, view of the future.
“Sometimes it might sound a bit too technical, but Emmott’s message needs to be heard”, continues Webber, while also expressing his own concerns: “The world of relative prosperity we have known since 1945 is falling apart. In addition to environmental issues, it seems to me that we are heading towards an era of populism and extremism. Hard Times… Sorry to be so gloomy! But this will probably be good for storytelling. We will be needing artists to guide us through a darker world.”