Film Reviews

The End of Certainties Review: Philosophy for Uncertain Times

NFB docs takes a talking heads approach to global economics


The End of Certainties
(Canada, 45 min.)
Dir. Jean-Daniel Lafond

The End of Certainties, a film by Jean-Daniel Lafond (Michaëlle Jean: A Woman of Purpose) pulls back the curtain on the discussions happening at the top of society. It spotlights key players in the global economic sphere attending the International Economic Forum of the Americas’ 2017 and 2019 editions, and their thoughts on the state of the world, pre-COVID-19.

The film offers valuable insight into what the global capitalist conversation among CEOs and world leaders looked like pre-pandemic. Many participants acknowledge the growing gap between the very rich and the very poor, which is interesting in light of the pandemic, which has accelerated this divide.

The End of Certainties reflects on the disastrous impacts of the 2008 recession, which now looks relatively tame compared to the economic tsunami we’ve faced this year, which will impact the economy for many years. As a snapshot of the discussions in 2017 and 2019, the film is useful in parsing out what problems have emerged as the result of the pandemic, and what problems have simply been exacerbated by it.

The film takes you within what would normally be an inaccessible space to the general public, and there is value in viewing what transpires in such an environment. The many talking heads in the film, often CEOs of multinational companies, grapple with the ongoing impact of globalization and how it can be steered in a better and more equitable direction. Some of the speakers foresee potentially serious repercussions if something is not done to curb the mounting inequalities in society.

“Obviously we can’t allow such massive disparity on a global scale without risking [much]…In the 18th century we called them peasant revolts. People rebelled, pitchforks in hand, against those who had everything,” said Thierry Breton, Chairman and CEO of Atos, an information technology company.

The collection of voices touch on global issues of immigration, climate change, Arctic sovereignty from an Inuit perspective, and more. While the topics are discussed at length, not many solutions are offered. The forum’s purpose appears to be to spark discussion from which solutions can later arise.

“It can’t just be discourse, we have to take concrete actions,” said Thomas Derichebourg, President of Group Derichebourg, a multinational waste-management company.

The End of Certainties would be especially valuable for educational purposes, finding its place in curricula on the topic of globalization. Ultimately the film leaves you wondering what these people would be saying in light of all that has happened this year, in our increasingly “uncertain times.”

The End of Certainties is now streaming on NFB.ca.