Ever Since the World Ended is a faux documentary set in a San Francisco virtually depopulated after a devastating plague wipes out most of humanity. Only 186 people remain in the city 12 years after the global tragedy — mostly adults who are still dealing with the emotional and logistical consequences of the Apocalypse, but also a handful of kids who can barely remember the busy old world with its millions of people, and who clearly are tired of hearing how great things were before.
The story follows two filmmakers, “Cal” and “Josh,” who are played by the producer directors of Ever Since the World Ended, Calum Grant and Joshua Atesh Litle. Most of the rest of the cast also portray characters with their same first names and seem to be fictionalized versions of themselves.
The filmmakers decide that after over a decade, it’s about time to get everyone to discuss their experiences with the plague and with the world they now live in. They travel through the now quiet City, finding and interviewing the sometimes reclusive remaining residents, with mixed success. Some people greet them with suspicion or disinterest, but slowly the structure of the new loosely bound society is revealed to us. The center is a group of folks, mainly women, who live together in one extended family and home under matriarch Mama Eva, while others seem to have embraced or perhaps surrendered to their changed environment and spend the time surfing, exploring the wilderness, and trying to find a connection with their new reality. Pain and nostalgia mingle with a fatalistic sense that things had gone too far wrong with the old world and something new had to emerge.
People being people, there are conflicts, and some people end up as outsiders even within such a small population. The most notable of these are Mark and Dave. Mark is an ex-EMT who appears to be suffering from PTSD due to his experiences in the front lines of the emergency services response to the plague, and who some in the community argue is too dangerous to live in the City, or perhaps at all. Dave is a young scavenger and trader who presents himself as an outsider by choice who fills a necessary societal niche. Clearly he’s traded community for convenience in what appears to be a teenage self-protective move that he is coming to regret. But in this new world the City is a village, and reinvention, the movie hints, is no longer simple when everyone’s roles have settled in such a small population.
Ed Noisecat, a local artist who makes gorgeous carvings in the Native American tradition, is also notable and has the funniest line in the film when he sighs, “Being the last Native American sucks, man.” He goes on to bitch about the mostly white remaining survivors coming to him for wisdom and dream interpretation. Adam Savage, of Mythbusters fame, also shows up as an pragmatic engineer with a soon-to-be-extinct knowledge base.
The film isn’t perfect. Given current demographics you would think we would see a few Asian or Hispanic folks, but most of the on-camera parts are white and tend towards apparent middle-class sensibilities. It could also have benefited from a little more attention to the visuals: the City looks empty but perfectly preserved, without decay or debris anywhere; likewise the clothes look new and everyone’s hair and grooming look normal even when they’ve been living on the beach or hiking in the woods.
Still, it’s an interesting watch at just under 80 minutes, and makes a nice entry in the ever growing list of post-Apocalyptic San Francisco stories. It could almost have come from the world described in the excellent Pat Murphy novel The City, Not Long After, which I wrote about in Issue #28 of this zine.
SF/SF Issue #87, June 2009