'Planetary' film wants to shift Earthlings' perspective

A thoughtful documentary from the Planetary Collective aims to shift our view by reminding us that we're all interconnected.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read

Even though we regularly see images of other worlds in our solar system, it's easy to forget just how awesome our own is. Planetary Collective

These days, the astronomy telegraph is filled with news about distant stars, watery moons millions of miles away and ominous black holes. So it's easy to forget that one of the most perspective-changing events in the history of the science occurred in 1968, when Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders turned his camera back on Earth and let us see our very own home floating in space.

A soon-to-be-released new film from a group called the Planetary Collective will remind us of the perspective Anders first showed us 47 years ago, and just how important it is to think of Earth as a world united beneath a blanket of blue and white life-preserving atmosphere, rather than as a collection of individual countries with artificial borders and divisions between races and religions.

Since that first shot of Earth, astronauts have had the chance to get an elevated view of our home world dozens of times. In some cases, all that blue-marble gazing has led to a shift in perspective called the "Overview Effect," the awareness that Earth is indeed a fragile ball floating in space with all life on its surface completely interconnected.

The Planetary Collective documented astronauts talking about this phenomenon in a powerful film called "Overview," which, since debuting in December 2012, has garnered almost 7 million views on Vimeo. Now, they've expanded that film into "Planetary," a feature-length movie that will be released on Vimeo On Demand and in limited theaters on Earth Day, April 22.

"We have forgotten the undeniable truth that everything is connected," says an overview of the film on Vimeo. "Planetary is a poetic and humbling reminder that it's time to shift our perspective. Planetary asks us to rethink who we really are, to reconsider our relationship with ourselves, each other and the world around us -- to remember that: we are Planetary."

The film features interviews with astronauts Ron Garan and Mae Jemison as well as environmentalist Bill McKibben, Buddhist spiritual leader Ogyen Drodul Trinley Dorje and other big thinkers who'll examine what it means to be a resident of planet Earth. It also features striking footage from NASA, plus "visions of the Milky Way, Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayas, and the cacophonous sounds of downtown Tokyo and Manhattan."

"Planetary" is being screened Tuesday at the South by Southwest festival and is available for preorder on Vimeo on Demand now for $12.99 (about £8.78, AU$17), in advance of its main Earth Day release. According to a release about the film, this marks the first time Vimeo has partnered to help release a film theatrically in addition to on its on-demand platform.