Questioning whether progress has actually occurred in the past 200 years is an audacious task in a film of less than 90 minutes. But directors Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks make a noble attempt in their documentary Surviving Progress, which opens in New York on Friday and nationally on April 20.
The film, based on the book A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright, is framed around the existential question: What is progress? Wright serves as a kind of moderator for the discussion between viewer and 20 authors, scientists, theorists, and activists — including Jane Goodall, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Hawking, and J. Craig Venter (the mapper of the human genome). They take up issues such as “progress traps” (what feels progressive but actually portends doom), pillaging of earth's natural resources, and the role of debt in human development, but the conversation is lopsided and self-affirming.