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National Film Board

Surviving Progress

Mathieu Roy / Canada / 2011 / 83 ' / English


Louis-Martin Paradis
Mathieu Roy & Harold Crooks
Mario Janelle, Marc Achbar, Jean-Pierre St. Louis & Dany Racine
Marc Achbar, Betsy Carson, Gerry Flahive, Silva Basmajian, Martin Scorsese & Emma Tillinger Koskoff
Original Music: Patrick Watson
Original Music: Michael Ramsey

Awards & Festivals

Sustainable Living Film Festival – Istanbul / December 1st, 2012
Journées québécoises de la solidarité internationale – Saguenay, Qc / November 10th, 2012
Dubai International Film Festival / December 8th,9th & 10th 2011
Toronto International Film Festival / September 9th, 11th & 13th, 2011
Festival du nouveau cinéma – Montreal / October 13th & 15th, 2011
Vancouver International Film Festival / October 1st & 2nd, 2011

Upcoming Screenings

Stay tuned for upcoming screenings!

In Production

A cinematic contemplation on our evolution from cave-dwellers to space explorers.


“Every time history repeats itself the price goes up.”

Surviving Progress presents the story of human advancement as awe-inspiring and double-edged. It reveals the grave risk of running the 21st century’s software — our know-how — on the ancient hardware of our primate brain which hasn’t been upgraded in 50,000 years. With rich imagery and immersive soundtrack, filmmakers Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks launch us on journey to contemplate our evolution from cave-dwellers to space explorers.

Ronald Wright, whose best-seller, “A Short History Of Progress” inspired this film, reveals how civilizations are repeatedly destroyed by “progress traps” — alluring technologies serve immediate needs, but ransom the future. With intersecting stories from a Chinese car-driving club, a Wall Street insider who exposes an out-of-control, environmentally rapacious financial elite, and eco-cops defending a scorched Amazon, the film lays stark evidence before us. In the past, we could use up a region’s resources and move on. But if today’s global civilization collapses from over-consumption, that’s it. We have no back-up planet.

Surviving Progress brings us thinkers who have probed our primate past, our brains, and our societies. Some amplify Wright’s urgent warning, while others have faith that the very progress which has put us in jeopardy is also the key to our salvation. Cosmologist Stephen Hawking looks to homes on other planets. Biologist Craig Venter, whose team decoded the human genome, designs synthetic organisms he hopes will create artificial food and fuel for all.

Distinguished Professor of Environment Vaclav Smil counters that five billion “have-nots” aspire to our affluent lifestyle and, without limits on the energy and resource-consumption of the “haves”, we face certain catastrophe. Others — including primatologist Jane Goodall, author Margaret Atwood, and activists from the Congo, Canada, and USA — place their hope in our ingenuity and moral evolution.

Surviving Progress leaves us with a challenge: To prove that making apes smarter was not an evolutionary dead-end.


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