Humankind is obsessed with doomsday. Perhaps it’s the horror of finality beyond our control or even comprehension, but we also hate to think that we are powerless against a catastrophic eventuality. Enter the ruggedly good-looking hero (McConaughey or Willis) who with nothing but bare hands and a cordless drill can stop a meteor from colliding with Earth (America) or lead a group of survivors to find food in a landscape of only burnt vegetation.
Outside of true science, this is what we, the public, really knows about natural disasters of that scale. It’s what we are fed by the imaginations of Hollywood scriptwriters who blur the lines of reality and the ridiculous to make us believe in the possibility of both impending doom and a happy ending.
Disaster Playground explores space disasters in the real world. How real is the threat? Are we prepared for that scale of disaster? And whom exactly is the world relying on for our disaster plan?
Asteroids are definitely coming. There is one that is going to hit the Earth; it’s already on its trajectory. We just don’t know which one.
The film that was both written and directed by Ben Hayoun follows the real-life heroes (scientists) and the running chain of command of people who monitor, follow, assess risks and deflect near Earth objects (NEO). It stars the people who have taken it upon themselves to protect us from Armageddon and reveals the real life procedures put in place in the event of an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, or similar potential disasters created by the vastness of outer space.
We have the tools that could deflect it before it comes here, but first we have to change the way we monitor the sky and organise politics to be able to deal with it in time.
The difference between Ben Hayoun’s Disaster Playground and a Hollywood movie is her unique cinematic approach. It’s a concise yet idiosyncratic and highly stylised approach to the unseen threat of elimination or an immeasurable dystopia in dramatic visualisations, enactments and interviews.
There is thankfully a glaring lack of lengthy philosophising by an actor in a space suit on Mars. Instead it’s a fun behind-the-scenes look into real people quietly preparing to save the world from the horror of an absurd problem, set to a buzzing soundtrack by The Prodigy.