MDFF Review: Living in the Time of Dying

Living in the Time of Dying.

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Written, directed and produced by Michael Shaw
Featuring Jem Bendell, Dahr Jamail, Catherine Ingram and Stan Rushworth

Living in The Time of Dying is an unflinching look at what it means to be living in the midst of climate catastrophe and finding purpose and meaning within it. Recognising the magnitude of the climate crisis we are facing, independent filmmaker Michael Shaw, sells his house to travel around the world looking for answers. Pretty soon we begin to see how deep the predicament goes along with the systems and ways of thinking that brought us here.

Review by Gavin Bond

One has to admire fledgling Australian documentary filmmaker Michael Shaw and his commitment to the cause and his craft.

Upon reflecting on his personal epiphany and realisation that the imminent ecosystem breakdown is set to lead to human mass extinction, he felt that it was his duty to make a documentary. As a result, he subsequently sold up his home in New South Wales in August 2019 to head around the world and chronicle his travels and journey and spread his message.

Living in the Time of Dying follows Michael’s discussions and interviews with four scholars from across the globe who have published their bold and somewhat alarming thoughts and theories on climate crisis.

His first port of call is a chat with long-time friend and Dharma teacher Catherine Ingram who is the author of an online essay Facing Extinction. This long form extended essay claims that capitalism and the accustomed way of societal human life is collapsing due to unbridled climate change.

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Michael then heads to England to discuss the theory of Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy with professor of sustainability leadership and the founder of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability Jem Bendell. Bendell states that not only are things worse than first reported but the true state of the world’s environment is largely ignored by mainstream media. The British professor believes that we now need to accept this predicament and plan for economic collapse. 

The third member of the quarter is renowned American journalist Dahr Jamail, who after gaining notoriety for his coverage of wartime Iraq now devotes his time in visiting environmental hotspots in the environment. His book End of Ice explores the dire effects of melting ice caps and rising sea levels.

The most striking interview is with the Indigenous elder and citizen of the Chiricahua Apache Nation, Stan Rushworth. Rushworth’s musings on nature and native spiritualism are both powerful and philosophical.

Some viewers may well find Living in the Time of Dying somewhat indulgent, overly intellectual, and perhaps even alarmist but Shaw is to be applauded for being brave enough to accept the stark reality of the climate crisis.

His sombre and meditative exploration of the ramifications of environmental abuse proves to be a welcome antidote to constant climate change denial and misguided optimism.

Living in the Time of Dying is screening as part of the 7th Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. The festival runs from the 1st -31st July Online and the 21st – 31st July 2022 In-Cinema at Cinema Nova as part of Documentary Month.

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