SXSW Film Review: Disaster Playground

It's armageddon, alright, just not Armageddon

And so what, Chicken Little, if the sky really is falling?

Difficult to do a documentary about an actual, devastating asteroid strike against our planet until 1) such an event occurs, and 2) we survive with enough filmmaking tech and creative drive intact. 

French designer and filmmaker Nelly Ben Hayoun brings us a doc about what humans would do if – when – such a catastrophe threatens, and it’s some scary shit. It’s not scary in the way of fictional films like Armageddon, et al., and it’s not scary in the way of innumerable YouTube-hosted, computer-generated simulations about big asteroid strikes. What’s scary is that Hayoun takes her camera and crew and answers the questions: “What is the protocol for dealing with such a threat? What is the chain of command and who makes the decisions about Best Possible Response?”

What’s scary is that, in talking to experts around the globe – those who track asteroids via observatory telescopes, those who have the computational firepower and big-picture capabilities for deducing trajectories, those who are connected with NASA or other space agencies – we’re let in on the open secret: There is no actual chain of command in place. There is no protocol established. There is no, in the words of a former U.S. president, decider.

Hayoun draws out the facts and the opinions of her subjects with infectious charm; she tags the film with a series of obliquely resonant quotes from Jean Baudrillard’s America; she makes a wild goose chase for official information engaging and visually dynamic.

She especially makes us hope that no big rock is headed our way any time soon.

Disaster Playground

Visions, World Premiere
Tuesday, March 17, 10:30pm, Alamo Lamar
Thursday, March 19, 1:15pm, Vimeo

Keep up with all our SXSW Film coverage at

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at For scheduling on the go, here's a SXSW Film Pocket Guide, which includes the handy Film Grid. Sign up for our South-by-specific newsletter at for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest Tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

More SXSW Film
Ben Wheatley  Catches <i>Free Fire</i>
Ben Wheatley Catches Free Fire
Director on making his U.S. action debut

Richard Whittaker, April 21, 2017

So What Is <i>Trainspotting </i> Anyway?
So What Is Trainspotting Anyway?
Choose life. Choose a sequel. Choose director Danny Boyle.

Richard Whittaker, March 24, 2017

SXSW Music Live: The Roots & Friends
SXSW Music Live: The Roots & Friends
“This is the best shit of the whole South By!”

Thomas Fawcett, March 19, 2017

SXSW Music Live: Stones Throw Showcase
SXSW Music Live: Stones Throw Showcase
L.A. hip-hop imprint throws another closing-night banger

Kahron Spearman, March 19, 2017

More by Wayne Alan Brenner
Austin's Weird Homes Tour Returns!
Austin's Weird Homes Tour Returns!
Some of your fellow citizens are really livin' that dream, boy howdy …

April 21, 2017

New Books Blooming Through the Blockchain
New Books Blooming Through the Blockchain
Google + Visual Editions = Books x Internet

April 20, 2017


SXSW Film, SXSW, Disaster Playground, Nelly Ben Hayoun, SXSW Film 2015

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)