The charities that backed a Richard Curtis film for the 10:10 environmental campaign said today that they were "absolutely appalled" when they saw the director's four-minute short, which was withdrawn from circulation amid a storm of protest.
The film, entitled No Pressure, debuted on the 10:10 website on Friday. Featuring a cast including film star Gillian Anderson and England footballer Peter Crouch, with music donated by Radiohead and shot by a 40-strong professional film crew led by director Dougal Wilson, it was intended to galvanise viewers into taking personal action to reduce their own carbon footprint.
In several graphic scenes, committed environmental campaigners use a detonator to blow up recalcitrant members of the public, including two schoolchildren and the ex-footballer David Ginola. Distribution plans for UK cinemas have now been scrapped.
The charity ActionAid, which co-ordinates the 10:10 schools programme, today welcomed the move. "Our job is to encourage proactive decisions at class level to reduce carbon emissions. We did it because evidence shows children are deeply concerned about climate change and because we see the impacts of it in the developing world where a lot of our work is. So we think the 10:10 campaign is very important, but the moment this film was seen it was clear it was inappropriate. "
While many people said they found the short an amusing way of addressing the issue of apathy towards climate change issues, others found it tasteless and unnecessarily violent.
Within hours of its release, the 10:10 team changed their minds and pulled the film.
"With climate change becoming increasingly threatening, and decreasingly talked about in the media, we wanted to find a way to bring this critical issue back into the headlines while making people laugh," said Lizzie Gillet, 10:10 global campaign director. "We were therefore delighted when Richard Curtis agreed to write a short film for the 10:10 campaign. Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn't and 10:10 would like to apologise to everybody who was offended by the film."
Curtis said last night: "I was worried that the environment is an issue that can seem worthy and we will all just drift into disaster. So I thought it was worth trying to write something unexpected. But when you try to be funny on a serious subject, it's obviously risky. I hope people who don't like the little film will still think about the big issue and try to do something about it."
10:10 founder and Age of Stupid film-maker Franny Armstrong said tonightCurtis had written what she thought was "a funny and satirical tongue-in-cheek little film in the over-the-top style of Monty Python orSouth Park". "When the film was released by 10:10 yesterday, lots of people found it funny, but many others were offended. Out of respect for those we offended, we immediately apologised and withdrew the film."
The 10:10 team went on to pay tribute to the crew and cast who donated their time and equipment for free, and concluded: "At 10:10 we're all about trying new and creative ways of getting people to take action on climate change. Unfortunately in this instance we missed the mark. Oh well, we live and learn."
At least three other groups linked to 10:10 confirmed they had privately expressed their concern. One told the Observer: "The great fear was that it would just take the focus off the programme."
The 10:10 campaign was launched in September last year, based on the Climate Safety report's identification that a 10% cut in the developed world's emissions by the end of 2010 would boost the planet's chances of avoiding a climate catastrophe. The aim was to sign up individuals, schools, companies and other groups to commit to reducing their carbon use by 10%. More than 96,000 people have signed up.
A statement from the Guardian, a backer of 10:10, which exclusively showcased No Pressure, said: "The film may have been somewhat tasteless, but it was an imaginative attempt to challenge public apathy over climate change.
"The Guardian warned users of its site that the film contained footage that could cause offence, and continues to link to another version of the film posted on YouTube."