The Mad Century: Cost-efficient but 'human stupid'

The Mad Century: Cost-efficient but 'human stupid'
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This clip covers the end of the 20th Century, where we learn that East Timor voted and Australian Aborigines wanted their land back. ‘When Iraq wanted oil-producing Kuwait back again, car-driving America drew the line’. Computers are cost-efficient but 'human stupid’. Finally, because of globalisation, everything is efficient and interconnected. 'The only problem is, we seem to have accidentally locked ourselves out of it.’

Summary by Antoinette Starkiewicz

Bruce Petty is telling us that in the rush to connect and control the globe we seem to have lost the plot and forgotten that humans, who actually inhabit the world, are made of much more than pixels. Digital technology, the war in Iraq and globalisation – all in our collective living memory – can now be pondered in the light of this film.

The final image, of a man desperately trying to embrace and hang on to the sphere that is our world, suggests that man has locked himself (and his humanity) out of the very world he helped to create.

The Mad Century Synopsis

Bruce Petty animates the 20th century’s achievements and conflicts in a cavalcade of doodles and rare newsreels from the past, guided by a thoughtful voice-over (Neville Thiele), so we can better understand the present.

Curator's Notes

If history books could be as entertaining and thought provoking as The Mad Century we would all be much keener students. True to his first calling as a political cartoonist, director-animator Bruce Petty looks behind the meaning of concepts, clichés and appearances.

No field of human endeavour escapes his fertile brain: art, music, industry, science, political grandstanding, human rights and human foibles are inventively connected and regularly examined for their true meaning. Well named, the mad 20th century is held up to the light so we may see some reason in it and better understand how history evolves and shapes us.

No other animation director has Petty’s array of gifts: the eye of an outstanding political cartoonist and commentator, a grasp of history made even more brilliant by decades of experience, and a satirical, human touch, so rare in this age of technology. With the Flash program now part of his palette and his son (sound designer Sam Petty) as part of his team, Bruce Petty illuminates our minds (again!) as no other animator can.

Bruce Petty’s filmography also includes the Oscar-winnning Leisure (1976), Hearts and Minds (1968) and Global Haywire (2007).

The Mad Century screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival and was broadcast on SBS Television in 2000.

Notes by Antoinette Starkiewicz

Production company:
Megan Harding Film Productions
Director and Writer:
Bruce Petty
Megan Harding
Paul Healy