The Hollywood Reporter
“Fascinating to see such a staggering project come together.”
Almost as much a drama of public relations as the story of a surprisingly successful collective of '60s dreamers, Matt Wolf's Spaceship Earth gets to know the men and women responsible for Biosphere 2, a ballyhooed experiment in self-contained ecological sustainability. Fascinating as a case study in turning big ideas into reality (sadly, a billionaire's help is often required), the documentary should appeal to old hippies and young futurists, eco-activists and anyone who enjoys watching small groups of people threaten to implode. It also makes a fine corrective to media hype (both pro and con) that surrounded this 1991 experiment, suggesting it was hardly the high-minded flop (or scam) some believed it to be.
“An involving, oddly poignant tale that should have broad appeal to those on the lookout for distinctive documentary features.”
The experiment known as Biosphere 2 may be best remembered now — when remembered at all — as something that spawned “Bio-Dome,” the godawful 1996 comedy that is nonetheless many people’s favorite movie involving Pauly Shore or Stephen Baldwin. (Of course, others might get hives at the very idea of having a favorite anything involving either of those two.) Its very loose real-life inspiration also had elements of bad farce, at least in the realm of unflattering media scrutiny and, to an extent, poor judgment by its administrators.
The Film Stage
“A fascinating story full of twists”
If the Earth was no longer inhabitable, could we survive inside a self-sustaining biodome environment launched into space? From Silent Running to Elysium, the question is the fodder for many a sci-fi film but in 1991, an eight-person group of men and women embarked on a two-year experiment to actually put this theory to the test. What followed was equal parts inspiring and frustrating as the duplicitous crossroads of innovation and capitalism converged.
“A testament to the group of outsiders who did try to grab the world's attention about climate change through theatrics and to do something substantial about it.”
The story of “Spaceship Earth” sounds like the premise of a sci-fi movie, but in true stranger-than-fiction manner, this Sundance premiere is truly out of this world.
How else do you explain how a theater troupe from San Francisco would, decades after the fact, attempt a large-scale ecological experiment to prove humans could create sustainable habitats for life in outer space?
“Their story, flaws and all, is a wonder to behold.”
Logline: Documentarian Matt Wolf (Teenage, Recorder) chronicles how science-fiction dreams begat the $200 million Biosphere 2 architecture project, and tracks where it all went wrong.
Longerline: In the ’60s, artist-engineer John Allen was an avant-garde thinker who attracted younger San Franciscans with his anecdotes about world travel and artistic ideology. His close-knit group of hippie pals formed a theater group before eventually hightailing it out of the city to establish Synergia Ranch, a New Mexico commune focused on ecology, architecture, and really, whatever people could dream up. That meant planting and harvesting crops to become fully self-sufficient, but also, with zero expertise, building a science vessel out of Chinese scrap metal and sailing around the world.