Author: Joe Smith
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  • 5 minutes

OU/BBC Creative Climate short film competition 2011: The end of an era

Updated Monday, 7th November 2011
Dr Joe Smith introduces this short, disturbing animation by Yousif Al-Khalifa, a student at the National Film and Television School. Influenced by Jurassic Park, the twist of this tale is that humans have been brought back from extinction.

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Putting humanity in its place

After watching the animation, and reading Dr Joe Smith's introduction, let us know what you think about the issues raised by this short comedy. Add your comments at the end of the article.


Creative Climate short film competition 2011

Finalist: The end of an era

Child Cockroach

Come on grandpa, we’ll be late!

Grandpa Cockroach

Alright lad, my legs aren’t as nimble as they used to be.

Child Cockroach

But it starts in 20 minutes!

Grandpa Cockroach

Okay, okay, I’m coming. 

Two tickets please.

Cinema attendant Cockroach

Well of course, and would the little one like one of our free soft toys?

Child Cockroach

Oh!  Thanks!

(film plays)

Professor-type Cockroach

And so I can finally reveal to you my greatest achievement.  Homo sapiens reborn!

Grandpa Cockroach (watching film)

It’s disgusting.

(film plays)

Professor-type Cockroach

Homo sapiens contributed to their own demise with their unending desire to devour everything in their reach, seemingly blind to the consequences or their fate, but they are far more complex than we had previously thought.  They have produced great art and found great beauty in the wonders of the world around them.  They were in fact glorious. 

Alert!  Alert!  System failure!  Alert!  Alert!  System failure!

Professor-type Cockroach

No, come back!  There’s no need to panic, it’s all fine.  There’s no way they can get out of there…..”

(film action: homo sapiens runs amok and steps on cockroaches)

(Child Cockroach runs out of cinema)

Grandpa Cockroach

Wait lad, wait!  Come here.

Child Cockroach (frightened)

Grandpa, will they ever be back?

Grandpa Cockroach

No lad, they’ve gone for good.  I think you’re safe for now.  Come on, let’s be getting you home.



The end of an era

Yousif Al-Khalifa, National Film and Television School

Human extinction is almost impossible to imagine, but the notion is never far away in environmental debates. This animation takes an insect-eye view to explore these deeply troubling themes with wit and generosity. Yousif Al-Khalifa describes his film thus:

Colin the cockroach and his grandfather seek a way to stave off the boredom of life beyond the apocalypse. For Colin, a trip to the cinema is the answer. But will 'Cenozoic Park', a tale of homo-sapiens brought back from extinction, prove too much for him to face?
Our ambition was to create a film that asks its audience to reconsider the situation we find ourselves in today in an engaging and innovative way. To deliver the weighty message of the vulnerability of our species but in a light hearted manner.
When given the brief, one of the themes proposed by the BBC and Open University was 'do we need ecology more than it needs us?'. I felt it was natural to explore a post-apocalyptic world where the near invincible cockroach has survived man's extinction. Working with an amazing team of fellow students from the National Film and Television School and talented actors including Sir Tom Courtenay, we've captured a glimpse into a world where life goes on without us.

The use of a light touch comic device makes plenty of space for the viewer to pause and revise their thinking about the proper place of humanity on the planet. The storyline references the movie blockbuster Jurassic Park, but this time it is humans that have been brought back from extinction. Highly skilful animation, music, script and acting transport the viewer to a cockroach civilisation not many years from now. The cockroach Richard Attenborough character in the movie-within-a-movie reminds his tourists that humans weren’t entirely beastly, their culture had its sophisticated and sensitive side. Leaving the movie theatre, grandpa can reassure his grandson that ‘they’ll never be back’.

Yousif and team were responding to the ‘ecology’ brief, which invited ways of communicating the insight that ‘humans need trees and bees - but they don’t need us’. Environmental sciences show the many and varied ways in which all human activity is dependent on the non-human natural world. Food, water, resources, all the essentials of life, rely on the functioning of ecological systems.

Animated figures purchasing cinema tickets

Yet over the 250 years since the Enlightenment the dominant ways of framing the world have set humans apart from nature. Modern culture has placed people centre-stage and many theorists argue for a ‘de-centering of the human’. These philosophical concerns are about much more than playing with words. If we fail to place humans within their wider networks it is inevitable that our politics, economics and culture will continue to behave as if divorced from the environmental systems on which they depend.

‘End of an era’ communicates this vital insight with a deft hand. Viewers are rewarded with an entertaining micro-movie, but take away nagging thoughts about the need for humans to accept a much more modest and considerate role in the world.



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