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French filmmaker Philippe Borrel takes on the dystopia & utopia of our times

Philippe Borrel’s A World Without Humans questions the headlong rush of techno-scientific progress.

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Chandigarh | Published: September 9, 2015 9:06:12 am
Philippe Borrel, filmmaker Philippe Borrel, French filmmaker Philippe Borrel, Philippe Borrel documentaries, Calgary International Film Festival, India latest news Phillipe Borrel at Alliance Francaise in Chandigarh on Tuesday. (Source: Express photo by Jaipal Singh)

Had the world not been shaping the way he describes it, Philippe Borrel’s documentaries would’ve been passed off as out-of-the-blue pieces of bizarre science fiction. An award-winning filmmaker from France, 49-year-old Borrel made his fourth trip to India courtesy the Alliance Francaise (AF). His works— ‘A World Without Humans’ and ‘The Invisible (R)evolutions’— were screened at AF Chandigarh Tuesday.

Two contrasting themes, Borrel released the 96-minute ‘A World Without Humans’ in 2012 questioning the headlong rush of techno-scientific progress, man-machine fusion and trans-humanism. The film was selected by FIPA 2013 at Calgary International Film Festival in 2013 and awarded a special jury prize at the festival of Health Liege early 2014. “The Invisible (R)evolutions is a mirror image of my previous film,” says Borrel, highlighting stories about people across the world who are working on alternative forms of survival.

As opposed to the capitalist, dehumanised, dystopian society in ‘A World Beyond Humans’, ‘The Invisible (R)evolutions’ pans on change agents such as Barefoot College, activist Rob Hopkins of the famous Transition Movement promoting natural living, organic farming, solar energy (in Rajasthan), the re-localisation of local economy, etc.

Borrel’s thought process emanates from his 25 years of observations and travels, of “picking the pieces of a puzzle and piecing them together to understand the larger picture”. A former journalist, he likes to go behind the facade, attack lies and use this platform to make the voices of people seen and heard.

From issues linked to environment, food, technology to development, control, industrialisation and growth, Borrel has explored them through his documentaries like ‘Not in my name!’ (2006), ‘Alerte dans nos assiettes’ (2008), and the 2010 ‘Eco Warriors’.

“Reality is stronger than fiction, and the ugly truth is that we are heading towards a world that will be an oligarchy run by technocrats,” he exemplifies it with a scenario enacted in Hollywood flick, ‘Elysium’.

Of the strong opinion that machines have invaded our daily lives, making us dependent and enslaved to them, Borrel, without discounting the upside of technology, feels that if not checked in time, there will be a world trapped in moral and economic crisis. “This accelerated race of techno-scientific progress in the past decade, work on bionic prosthetics, artificial intelligence, neurosciences, molecular biology, nanotechnology, etc, have catapulted us to a new age. But on the flip side is a study by Oxford MIT scientists claiming that if not checked, 47 per cent of white-collar jobs, the working middle class will be wiped out soon and replaced by machines!” Borrel paints an alarming picture.

As he talks about a new wave in America, on trans-humanism — human-machine hybrids called ‘posthumans’— he sounds straight out of a sci-fi film, warning human race of the impending catacylsmic decline in society. Although he balances it with a positive alternate force at work in ‘The Invisible (R)evolutions’, Borrel feels that it’s imperative for a scientist to look at the bigger picture, to let philosophy and social cause inspire their work in order to produce something for the greater good.

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