Viewer Beware! New Population Film, Misconception, Is Misconceived

June 24, 2016 • Daily Email Recap

Prof. Hans Rosling, the film’s spiritual guru… loves to jazz up data into flashy graphics in desperate attempts to make them spuriously entertaining to laypeople.
One thing we can rest assured about: if you create a documentary on population and anoint Hans Rosling as your guiding light, your film is not going to amount to much. This is exactly the scenario we have with a two-year old film, now being dusted off and promoted fairly aggressively, called Misconception.
I was contacted several weeks ago by a film distribution company, Matson Films, that wanted to partner with PMC to contribute to a nationwide campaign to publicize the “groundbreaking insights of statistics guru Hans Rosling.” They are using to foment community screenings of the film across the U.S. (See:
It is clear that director Jessica Yu is a strong film-maker. Her narrative is well-defined and she illuminated her main characters in a very engaging way. Her work to expose cultural pressures around marriage and childbearing in China, the alarming worldview of an anti-abortion activist, and the tragedy of orphans in Uganda were all well-done. Plus, the film obviously supports family planning. The problem is simply that she has fallen for two of Rosling’s most absurd conclusions on population: that pointing out the strains of population size and growth is “fearmongering” and, worse, the ridiculous if-then proposition that upper-middle class audiences simply love. Specifically, “IF there is any over-consumption in the developed world, THEN overpopulation can not be an issue.” So, while Yu says “fear” of overpopulation creates disengagement from the world, she instead chooses to pacify audiences into a different sort of disengagement — allowing them to disassociate their personal guilt for being rich away from the reality of ongoing rapid population growth. Once an unsuspecting viewer sees this film, the population taboo will be set in stone, and the truth of global ecological overshoot erased from their consciousness.

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