SUSTAINABILITY: A spirited documentary following a visionary counterculture collective, as well as a cautionary tale about the forces destroying the planet.
Hariette Yahr
Published date: February 13, 2020

Sundance had a strong showing of documentary films this year. The slate was noteworthy for the subjects covered and also for inventive storytelling techniques. Spaceship Earth stood out for its expert storytelling. The film, which premiered in the U.S Documentary Competition, was directed by Matt Wolf (Teenage, Recorder).

Here’s the blurb from the Sundance Catalog:
In 1991, eight capable men and women were sealed into Biosphere 2, an airtight terrarium in the Arizona desert containing a miniature replica of Earth’s environment. Funded by a Texas oil tycoon hoping to acquire licensable technologies for space colonization, the mission of Biosphere 2 was to maintain an isolated, sustainable environment for two years. It was a mission that became a dystopian simulation of ecological crisis, after which a corporate consultant took over the venture—and disappeared the data.

Spaceship Earth-Biosphere 2-documentary-post1
Spaceship Earth, a film by Matt Wolf | Image Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Biosphere 2

Spaceship Earth is a film that appears to be about one thing—on face, people might call it “ «that Biosphere 2» documentary. But once the film gets rolling, you quickly realize it is about much more. Sure, Spaceship Earth does chronicle the tale of the massive airtight terrarium built in the Arizona desert, you won’t need to ask for a refund if that’s what you’re after. But the film transcends that historical event to illuminate the people behind the project, a group called the Synergists, without whom Biosphere 2 would not have existed. And it’s the Synergists — who they were, their ethos, and what they were able to accomplish—that is the heart and delight of the film.

The interests of the Synergists (they hailed from Synergia Ranch in New Mexico), might read like an encyclopedia of 1960s memes:


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