One world ends and another begins… Despite what Hollywood spectacle-making would have us believe, apocalyptic disasters are not a one-size-fits-all, universal experience. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent case study of inequality at the end of the world. While many people found themselves made physically, mentally and socially vulnerable in 2020, with the loss of work, income and future planning, billionaires enjoyed making obscene amounts of wealth during this time of disaster (the then-CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, for example, accumulated so much wealth during 2020 that he could have given every Amazon employee a $105,000 bonus, and still be as rich as he was pre-pandemic). The COVID-19 virus itself did not cause the global economy to plummet, domestic violence rates to skyrocket, and Black and Asian people to die at twice the rate of white people in the UK; instead the pandemic simply exacerbated the preexisting apocalyptic conditions of being alive right now in a world that continues to run on the exploitation of specific populations, lands and ecosystems.
And yet, in fiction, the end of the world can also present new, alternative, brighter ways of living. In her book, A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit writes: “Horrible in itself, disaster is sometimes a door back into paradise, the paradise at least in which we are who we hope to be, do the work we desire, and are each our sister’s and brother’s keeper.” Each of the films in this programme are doors back into paradise. Thirza Cuthand’s mockumentary, Reclamation, presents a radical vision of Indigenous utopia after privileged white Canadians move to Mars, while Mona A. Shahi’s poetic animation, Red Fire muses on humanity’s need to pursue hope. Two other animations, Creepy Pasta Salad and I gotta look good for the apocalypse, playfully evoke feelings of simultaneous boredom and panic that arise in times of crisis, while BBQ & Apocalypse is an intimate romance set during a sweltering climate catastrophe. Jean-Gabriel Périot’s archival film Undo takes us back to simpler times (literally), while I Love Sarah Jane is a comforting reminder that teen angst will survive even the zombie apocalypse.
Katie Goh is the author of The End: Surviving the World Through Imagined Disasters, published by 404 Ink.
The End is screening at 20:45 on Sat 26 March at Civic House.