Candid Cinema

SXSW 2020 (Documentary Spotlight): We Are As Gods


BY: Amanda Guarragi 

We Are As Gods is a documentary based on the legend Stewart Brand. Brand lived a very full life and began his journey at Stanford University, where he studied biology. During the late 1960s and early 70s, Brand developed the famous The Whole Earth Catalogue with the subheading, “access to tools”. The Catalogue is a publication that coincided with social and cultural experimentation in this era, which was directly associated to counterculture.

3. Stewart on Further

What is fully realized in this documentary is that people in the 60s and 70s, did many things on their own. They discovered new ways to look at the world and without those pioneers, like Brand, nothing we have at the moment would have been possible. Brand experimented with life and if he hadn’t done so, then the photo of the Earth would have never been released. Brand pushed the boundaries of human existence on this planet and how we all function as a society.

While watching We Are As Gods I was blown away by the information being tossed around by biologists and environmentalists. The documentary does show Brand’s life but also dives into a project he is currently working on, which is de-extinction. Brand is now using biotech to resurrect extinct species, in order to restore balance to our ecosystem. Our planet is rapidly deteriorating and Brand’s goal is to preserve the Earth. Humans have destroyed the environment, have chased away or killed species and it’s getting worse.

The directors, Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado created such an important piece educating viewers about the history of the Earth and the current state humans are living in. They showed that there is a possibility that useful sciences could eventually restore some sort of balance to our deteriorating planet, while still countering the idea by using other scientists who disapprove of this de-extinction theory. It’s such an interesting topic and I appreciated the integration of Brand’s footage because sometimes all it takes, is one person to ask a question that could change the future.

Siberia_Stewart Brand_B.Hall Photos_140
David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg

“We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” this is the opening line in The Whole Earth Catalogue. Stewart Brand tried to question science in order to make it evolve so future generations could live in a better world. We are the only ones who can control our own future, we ARE our own gods and we have accessibility to different forms of sciences that can help redesign and hopefully save the planet. This can only happen if people actually have faith in these theories and understand that it’s for a greater good.

Stewart Brand

I also loved the way that this documentary was filmed, the cinematography was stunning and the framing for certain landscapes captured the beauty of the world. There was a sequence in a tunnel, where the permafrost is located and it actually took my breath away. Everything from the lighting to the camerawork made that sequence beautiful. It’s truly amazing work from Sussberg and Alvarado. This documentary about Stewart Brand’s life holds so much value because of his views on humanity, science and the entire planet.


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