Apocalypse soon?

If you stack up all the documentaries and even fiction films focused on the supposed impending apocalypse in 2012, there's a good pile already available. Banks Productions Ltd. has its own 2012 project on the go, but rather than looking at the theories around the end date of the Mayan calendar, the Toronto-based producer is looking at the psychology of fear surrounding December 21, 2012 for the CBC.
March 17, 2010

It’s no secret that many people are afraid of what might happen at the end date of the Mayan calendar. There are documentaries, books and even a fairly successful Hollywood film about it. But what is a relative secret is how people are preparing for what they think may be the end of the world. A team in association with Toronto-based Banks Productions is currently following some of these groups to find the reasons behind their belief that the world will end in two years’ time. The project, Apocalypse 2012 (w/t), will be a 43-minute documentary for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘Doc Zone’ strand, which is due to air near the end of 2010. The film will be launched internationally through Beyond Distribution in 2011.

Cynthia Banks, the film’s director, producer and writer, says the secretive nature of these groups being documented is both what makes it such an exciting project and a sensitive one. ‘They’ll tell you so much and then it becomes very secretive,’ she says. ‘They don’t want anyone showing up and taking over their survival camp or community when it happens.’

Banks came up with the idea for the doc when she first heard about the prophecies surrounding December 21, 2012 over an Easter dinner in 2009. Upon Googling the date and finding thousands of hits, she knew she was onto something. She took the project to the CBC where she and commissioning editor Michael Claydon came up with the concept of looking at the doomsday date from a psychological perspective. ‘[We wondered] who’s buying into it, who’s invested in it and what do people get out of this?’ says Banks.

Apparently, it’s ordinary, run-of-the-mill men and women that make up the majority of the groups that can be called ’2012 believers.’ Banks and her team have traveled throughout Europe and the Americas to meet with groups who are discovering their own ways to protect themselves from what they believe is coming. Some are running survival camps to teach their members to hunt, build shelter and take care of themselves if they lose modern conveniences due to natural disasters, while others are building protective housing, such as underground bunkers. The crew has already completed preliminary filming with most of these groups and plans to visit them again in June to see where their progress. ‘What I would love to do is follow up with these people and actually be filming them on December 21,’ says Banks.

Banks says the team was also the first film crew to capture the hieroglyph entitled Monument 6 in Mexico which is the only recorded image of the end date.

According to the filmmaker, working on a project like this does make one think about personal preparedness for natural disasters. ‘I keep looking at my empty gas tanks in the garage and my empty water bin and I’m meeting people who already have four years of food stocked up,’ she says. ‘I’m thinking I’m not very prepared.’

So what will she be doing on December 21, 2012? Well, if she’s not filming survivalists as they face their fears, she might have a birthday party to attend. ‘Michael Claydon’s birthday is December 21 and he said, ‘I think I’ll have a birthday party on that day,” says Banks. ‘And I said, ‘I’ll be there.”

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.