“If an asteroid hits the Earth, the result would probably be disastrous for humanity,” says director Nelly Ben Hayoun, who is behind this year’s Armageddon movie ‘Disaster Playground’. Watch the film this Sunday in Grand Teatret at 5.

INTERVIEW

Who is responsible if an asteroid heads towards the Earth one day? Hollywood relies on Bruce Willis, but in the documentary ‘Disaster Playground’ Nelly Ben Hayoun examines whom we actually entrust with the survival of the earth. She discloses the chain of command of who’s in charge from NASA and the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute), to the White House and the UN. However, the communication might be interrupted along the way. The film reveals a missing link in the communication, which could have a disastrous impact the day an asteroid heads towards the Earth.

A look into the future
In ‘Disaster Playground’ Nelly Ben Hayoun glimpses into the future. “’Disaster Playground’ is effectively looking at the design of an imaginary procedure and asks: who’s in charge when a catastrophe from outer space heads towards the Earth?” she explains.

This is a popular subject, with which Hollywood and the film industry have entertained us repeatedly. Films that have given us an expectation of how such a situation ‘should’ be handled.

“If an asteroid is headed towards us one day, we imagine that Bruce Willis will come to the rescue. However, we quickly discover that there is a strict chain of command,” says Nelly. It was this chain of command that the film would follow.

A journey through the chain of command
In most film productions the participants and the locations are chosen ahead. That was not the case for Nelly Ben Hayoun, who gambled at large:

“It was a very risky film. I really went out of my comfort zone, in the sense that I literally let myself be taken from one person to the next.”

The film’s development depended on all the people involved, who had the opportunity to perform their own role before sending Nelly on to the next person.

Nelly enthusiastically explains that the roles played by the people in the chain of command are what make this film unique:

“The film documents for the first time all the people in this chain of command – ALL OF THEM! There is not a single person in this film who would not have a role to play if an asteroid was discovered. All the way from The White House to the UN.”

An untested rescue plan
During the filming of the documentary Nelly discovered that the rescue plan existed only in theory. No one had actually tested it:

“It was the first time that they (the people in the chain of command, editor’s note) could see each other perform. There is a very important aspect to this, in the sense that they use the film for themselves,” she explains.

What Nelly, the crew and the participants in ‘Disaster Playground’ discovered was sensational:

“What I found out was that there is communication point that is missing. Although this (that an asteroid is detected) might not happen right now, it might be something that happens for future generations,“she explains, adding:
“If we do not spend time looking around us, monitoring the sky and planning ahead, then yes, it is going to happen. The results can be very catastrophic for humanity.”

A film with a global print
However, the film’s dramatic and urgent message has not been ignored. Nelly stresses that something is being done about the current situation:

“They (the UN, editor’s note) have actually decided to reenact and perform this all over again, because they realised that there is something missing in the procedure. This film has had a global impact in terms of how the people perform their role, but also how they plan to implement activity to perform better”

And what can we learn from the film? According to Nelly ‘Disaster Playground’ has a very clear message:

“The initial intention was to show the public that this is where we are. As human beings we have a tendency to put trust in others and be naive. People need to see that scientists are human beings, that situations are complex to assess sometimes, and that at the end of the day it is down to whether or not they believe the data they see on the screen – and whether or not they have enough data and tools to monitor and assess the situation.”

‘Disaster Playground’ can be seen at this year’s CPH: DOX November 5-15. The final programme will be revealed on October 16 on CPH:DOX’s website, where you also can buy tickets.

About Nelly Ben Hayoun
Dubbed the ‘Willy Wonka of Design and Science’, Nelly is an award ­winning explorer and director, a fearless and passionate provocateur. She is the Designer of Experiences at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, Head of Experiences at We Transfer, a Wired Innovation fellow, a member of the International astronautical federation and in 2013 Icon Magazine touted Ben Hayoun as one of the 50 international designers “shaping the future”. She works with leading scientists to devise subversive events and bring chaos and critical thinking amongst members of the public and institutions.