short film: “The Ark”

Ages ago — in April 2006, to be precise — I started off an essay about depictions of ecological disaster on film that I published at the Internet Review of Science Fiction like this:

I remember seeing a short film in elementary school—this would have been in the mid to late 70s—in which an elderly man tends a greenhouse in which he is carefully cultivating what may be some of the last plants on the planet. The air outside the greenhouse, the air in the “real world,” is toxic—it is absolutely essential that the plants be kept in this controlled environment. And the key moment of the little film comes as a gang of idiot kids throw rocks at the greenhouse, breaking the glass and killing the plants, and the man is devastated.

Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but I was devastated by this, too, even as a little kid.

Every once in a while I get an email from someone who had a similar experience and is wondering whether I’ve been able to figure out what the film was called and whether it’s available. I never was able to do that… but reader Scott was.

And here’s the film, a 1970 short called “The Ark”:

The film isn’t quite as I remember it: it’s more philosophical than I recall, and the world depicted seems slightly less horrific than I remember. Though I suspect that may be because now I’m much more accustomed to seeing environmental disaster on film (and in the real world) — and film has gotten better at depicting it in horrific ways — than I was as a little kid.

If this seems similar to the 1972 film Silent Running, well…

Universal Studios held the script for Ark for six weeks and then passed on it. One year later they released the film “Silent Running” starring Bruce Dern, which was essential the same story.

(That’s from the IMDb.)

What do you make of this? Did you see this as a kid, too?

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Kelly Myers
Thu, Apr 11, 2013 3:38pm

Thank you MaryAnn and Scott!!!!!!!!!!!! this film is probably one reason…a big part…and because of my mom…..that I care so much about the environment…..and probably, as well, deepened my level of empathy

Mon, May 13, 2013 2:57am

Wonderful. I saw this movie in my high school Biology class in 1995 or 1996 and it has been haunting me ever since. Thanks so much!

Wed, Jun 19, 2013 6:07am

I am so grateful that you found and posted this film. I saw it in 6th grade and formed a large part of who I am today. I am an Environmental Engineer doing my best to keep the world from turning into the nightmare depicted inthis moving short film. Thank you!

Fri, Feb 28, 2014 7:43pm

Me too I saw this film when I was 10 or 11 – I was horrified by the images of the old man in the greenhouse under attack – it has been haunting me ever since. It’s probably what motivated me to choose environmental research as a profession, more than any Cousteau film ever did. I recall that they showed us this film and “Hanging at Owl Creek” back to back. I didn’t sleep for weeks after …

Gyo Shin
Gyo Shin
reply to  J
Wed, Sep 28, 2016 4:58pm

Where did you go to elementary school? Do you remember the teacher’s name?

Tue, May 19, 2015 12:39am

Amazing, I have been looking for this for years. Saw it like many others when in elementary school back in the 70s and haunted e ever since!!

Jeff Sorensen
Jeff Sorensen
Sun, Apr 09, 2017 1:58pm

My father Gilbert Sorensen was the producer of this film, as kids I remember having boxes of the masks from the films we played with, my grandparents were in the film also. Very impactful film, always proud of dad’s work.

Mon, Jun 12, 2017 3:06am

I saw this film when I was 14 and it has stayed with me all these years. When I see land being cleared for another development, I think of this film.