Most of these documentaries are easily available. Some are even free online. Some I’ve included are recently released and are either on the film festival circuit or just don’t have the money for a big mainstream release. These films can be seen if you organize a film viewing through an organization—like a library, a church, an organic store, a school. If a film is available for general sale, but not on Netflix, and you don’t want to buy it, maybe ask your local library to either order it or get it for you through their lending system. One of these films is likely difficult to get, INVISIBLE, but I felt very moved by it in a number of ways, the most important being that what appears to be pristine might be, actually, lethal. It’s a huge metaphor for us today.
My thanks to the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) for exposing me to so many really fine films, many of which have gone on to be mainstream successes. But, even the ones who haven’t, not because of quality, but because they don’t fall in the popular vein of entertainment these days, have expanded my understanding of people, of the environment, and of the world in so many ways.
I’ll continue to update this list, which is alphabetical:
A CHEMICAL REACTION: The Story of a True Green Revolution, trailer, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTcvO-o8NTA, info page, http://www.safelawns.org/chemical-reaction/. Traces how one quirky woman’s efforts—Dr. June Irwin– in Canada led to her town banning cosmetic lawn chemicals—an action replicated by towns across Canada. The chemical company protested and the case went to the Canadian Supreme Court. The town won due to Precautionary Principle logic. The chemical lawn company simply changed its names in Canada and the US. Not widely available; ask your local library to buy a copy.
A RIVER OF WASTE: THE HAZARDOUS TRUTH ABOUT FACTORY FARMS, 2009, video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXG-B3iu2Uc, available on Hulu. Exposes the health issues of factory farms to all of us. I have not yet seen this film, but the Weston A. Price folks recommend it.
A SENSE OF WONDER, into page http://www.asenseofwonderfilm.com. Kaiulani Lee embodies Rachel Carson in this award-winning documentary-style film, based on the play written and performed by Kaiulani Lee for the past 20 years. Rachel Carson, in THE SILENT SPRING, documented the environmental dangers being created by our unbridled use of dangerous, untested chemicals. Filmed in Maine in the house where Rachel Carson summered, the film runs under an hour. Not widely available, ask your library to order it.
BAD SEED: THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR FOOD, 2006 and updated 2011, info page and videos, http://www.badseed.info. A hard-hitting film about the dangers of GMO food, which has NOT been properly tested. The film discusses how the government is failing to protect citizens and is doing what big corporations like Monsanto want—mostly because business has infiltrated government to an astonishing degree. Widely available, you can watch online at the web site. Many reputable scientists speak on the film about the GMO dangers. Industry wants to include GM foods without labeling them. Europe has, so far, banned them.
BAG IT, made in 2010. Award winning exploration of plastic bags. Info at http://www.bagitmovie.com/ Here’s the synopsis from the web site: “Americans use 60,000 plastic bags every five minutes-single-use disposable bags that we mindlessly throw away. But where is “away?” Where do the bags and other plastics end up, and at what cost to our environment, marine life and human health? Bag It follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier as he navigates our plastic world. Jeb is not a radical environmentalist, but an average American who decides to take a closer look at our cultural love affair with plastics. Jeb’s journey in this documentary film starts with simple questions: Are plastic bags really necessary? What are plastic bags made from? What happens to plastic bags after they are discarded? Jeb looks beyond plastic bags and discovers that virtually everything in modern society-from baby bottles, to sports equipment, to dental sealants, to personal care products-is made with plastic or contains potentially harmful chemical additives used in the plastic-making process. When Jeb’s journey takes a personal twist, we see how our crazy-for-plastic world has finally caught up with us and what we can do about it. Today. Right now.”
BLUE VINYL, 2002, info page http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0303307/. Shows the hazards involved with the manufacture and use of plastics. One of the first documentaries I watched on this list.
DIRT, THE MOVIE, info page and trailer, http://www.dirtthemovie.org/. Widely available. Earth has a living breathing skin: dirt. The elements in dirt are also in us, and these elements are reused over and over again. Humans don’t understand or value dirt and are changing dirt, which will harm all life.
FLOW, or FOR LOVE OF WATER, 2008, info page, http://www.flowthefilm.com. Award-winning documentary about the growing privatization of water. Important film. Widely available.
FOOD BEWARE, trailer, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_V_fCYwSVE; info page, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1319645/. This 2008 documentary is available on Netflix. The French title is OUR CHILDREN WILL ACCUSE US. The film focuses on why our children are not as healthy as previous generations and looks to various causes, including environmental poisons and food degredation. The film centers on a small French village which decides to make its school lunch program all organic.
FOOD, INC., info page, http://www.foodincmovie.com. Shows how industrial farming works, what it looks like. A must see. Widely available.
FRESH, info page and videos, http://www.freshthemovie.com/. Features Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin, Will Allen, and many others who speak to the emerging reinvention of how we produce our food supply. EXCELLENT. Watch for a local screening or organize one.
HEALING CANCER FROM THE INSIDE OUT, 2008, info video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvOCWB9RPGQ. This documentary traces the abysmal failure of American medicine to “cure” cancer AND the development, nevertheless, of a huge medical industry to treat it—an industry that uses poison (chemo) and deadly radiation as its tools. The film does not go into causes of cancer. One of the film’s most important contributions is the reality check about current cancer treatments. Statistics show that untreated people are living longer. Another important contribution is the film’s tracing of the troubled roots and the rise of modern, mainstream medicine—which in this country has driven out all homeopathic treatments which seek to work with the body. The film centers on alternative, dietary treatments that perhaps can help, especially if the patient has eaten a lot of processed, poisoned food. But, in the long-term, one must eat nutrient dense foods to be healthy, and fruits and vegetables are not nutrient dense. Still, treatments such as that Max Gerson developed have had cancer successes—as the film shows. Widely available.
INSIDE JOB, 2010, info page and trailer, http://www.sonyclassics.com/insidejob/. Shows the actual causes of the financial meltdown. With deregulation, Wall Street started selling products, which is a rational thing for businesses to do when capitalism is not fettered with rules and controls.
INVISIBLE, 2006, Roz Mortimer film from the UK, info page http://www.wonder-dog.co.uk/invisible.html. We think of the Artic as a pristine wilderness. But when scientists collected breast milk from Inuit mothers, they found them loaded with chemicals—obtained by eating their traditional animal foods: seal, whale, bear. Contact info given on the web site. You’ll likely have trouble getting this film, and much of what it says Dr. Sandra Steingraber also says about breast milk—in LIVING DOWNSTREAM, the book and the movie, and in HAVING FAITH. Still, if you have a group and can contact Mortimer, the film is unusual and interesting.
KILLER AT LARGE: WHY OBESITY IS AMERICA’S GREATEST THREAT (2008), info and trailer, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903660/. Watch for free at http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/killer_at_large/, but widely available. http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/killer_at_large/. Discusses the obesity epidemic and suggests some causes, including how some of our government’s policies are causing obesity.
KING CORN, info page and trailer, http://www.kingcorn.net/. A co-production of college friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis that traces the life of “corn” by growing some with conventional, commercial methods. The film traces how corn is used, what kind of corn is grown, how feeding corn to cows is changing meat, how high fructose corn syrup is made, and so forth. Excellent, funny, quirky and widely available. Ian Cheney has gone on to make another important film that’s on the film festival circuit now, fall 2011, THE CITY DARK, discussed below.
LIVING DOWNSTREAM, info page http://www.livingdownstream.com/trailer, inspired by the book LIVING DOWNSTREAM, by Dr. Sandra Steingraber, a cancer survivor who became a biologist PhD in order to understand why she got cancer and what she could do about its prevention. She is an expert on the interrelations of human bodies and many of the chemicals employed commonly today. She locates herself in the Rachel Carson heritage and is, thus, trying to raise awareness of chemical dangers so these chemicals can be banned. The film, unlike the book, shows how difficult it is for her to live with the cancer sword poised over her head daily—something too many films and discussions of cancer do not show. She is a gifted and intelligent writer and an amazing person. Watch for a screening or organize one.
MCLIBEL, 2005, info page, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0458425/. Story of two people in Great Britain who refused to say “sorry” to McDonald’s when they published and distributed a pamphlet critical of McDonalds. After the longest lasting libel case in British history, 10 years, they won, which was a PR disaster for McDonald’s. Here’s more info from Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McLibel_Case.
OCEANS, 2010, info page, http://disney.go.com/disneynature/oceans. A beautiful reminder of the amazing world beneath the surface of earth’s oceans. And, the terrible impact humans, with their industrial practices, are having on it.
ON COAL RIVER, info page http://oncoalriver.com. I didn’t realize until I saw this film that AVATAR was really about the demolishing of the mountains in at least 5 US states, West Virginia among them. By demolishing, I mean taking mountains right down to the flat lands—and dumping all the waste into the creeks and valleys and anything else that will hold it—with a total lack of regard for human health or well-being. The film is on the film festival circuit, but has been positioned to be shown to students. Either find a local screening or organize one.
OUR DAILY BREAD, info and trailer, http://www.ourdailybread.at/jart/projects/utb/website.jart?rel=en&content-id=1130864824947. A German film showing the industrial food industry in Europe. Not a word is spoken in the film, which is a riveting, scary, sad, and altogether haunting display of the dehumanization of humans, animals, and plants under the current industrialization of food. A must see.
POISONED WATERS, Frontline PBS, 2009, available online http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/poisonedwaters/. Investigates the health of our major waterways and concludes that they are very sick. Includes a section on what you can do.
TAPPED, 2009, info page and trailer, http://www.tappedthemovie.com/. Examines whether water is a resource or a commodity, the downsides of bottled water, and where the idea came from that we all need to “hydrate” all the time. Features Poland Springs water battles in Maine. Exposes the branding practices of water bottlers. From the makers of the excellent WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR and I.O.U.S.A, which I have not yet seen. Important film, widely available.
THE BOTANY OF DESIRE, 2009, from the book by Michael Pollan, http://www.ovguide.com/movies_tv/the_botany_of_desire.htm. Discusses man’s relationship to plants. View the film free at this web site.
THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN, 2007. This film takes a hard look at how birthing babies has become a business, rather than a health practice. Most OB/GYNs have never seen a live birth that takes place without interference. Too many young women are having c-sections, which are convenient and profitable, but which interfer with several key functions present in a normal live birth. This industry has convinced young women that they cannot have their babies on their own. A must-see if you are pregnant or know someone who is.
THE CITY DARK, info page and trailer, http://www.cargofilm-releasing.com/citydark.html. Ian Cheney’s new film explores how man-made light is illuminating the night so much that people are losing “dark”—and what that might mean. On the film festival circuit now. Try to catch a local viewing or organize one.
THE CORPORATION, 2003, info page http://www.thecorporation.com/. Excellent, award-winning Canadian documentary exploring the nature and the explosive rise of the most dominant institution of our time, the corporation, now deemed legally “a person” by our Supreme Court. The film is based on Joel Baken’s book, THE CORPORATION: THE PATHOLOGICAL PURSUIT OF PROFIT AND POWER. If corporations are “people,” argues this film, they are clearly sociopathic, without any notions of ethics beyond making profit and power.
THE END OF THE LINE, 2009, info page and videos http://endoftheline.com/film. Scientists predict the end of seafood by 2048 if we continue fishing the way we do now. The film points to solutions if we can get the political will to act now. You can help by not buying endangered fish. Excellent, compelling film. Widely available.
THE FUTURE OF FOOD, info page and trailer, http://www.thefutureoffood.com. This 2004 documentary was an early attempt to show the dangers of GMO (genitically modified) foods. BAD SEED is perhaps more current, and we do know more about these dangers now.
THE GLOBAL BANQUET, info page and trailer, http://olddogdocumentaries.com/vid_gb.html. Short, 56 minutes. Good for high school students. Can be shown in two 28-minute segments. Discusses the impact of globalization on the food supply. Debunks some prevailing myths, like hunger results from scarcity, or small countries can’t feed themselves, or only commercial agricultureal interests can feed the world. Watch for or organize a local viewing. (I have not seen this film.)
THE GREATER GOOD, available for purchase for under $20 at Amazon.com. This documentary explores vacine safety and efficacy. It’s a MUST SEE for anyone getting vaccines (flu) or letting a child get them. All voices across the spectrum of these issues are surfaced. The film is being shown to many audiences, including medical personnel. The film is winning awards across the country.
THE PRICE OF SUGAR, 2007, info page and trailer http://www.thepriceofsugar.com/about.shtml. The Dominican Republic splits an island with Haiti. Many disposed Haitians are imprisoned on the DR side of the island, working on the sugar-cane plantations. They live lives of unimaginable toil and deprevation as they are, literally, slaves. Their lives are spent putting cheap sugar on our kitchen tables. You have to organize to see this film—though a library, a church, or a school. It’s well worth the effort.
THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN, official trailer, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0egeHh1_Sb4. Widely available. John Petersen is “Farmer John,” who saves his family farm by starting one of the country’s first CSA, Community Shared Agriculture programs. Here’s more info from Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Real_Dirt_on_Farmer_John. There is also a cookbook. Fun, important, another “quirky” person who really made a difference. Here’s the web site for Angelic Organics: http://www.angelicorganics.com/ao/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=148&Itemid=182.
THE STORY OF STUFF, Annie Leonard. A 20-minute video that’s part of Annie Leonard’s THE STORY OF STUFF PROJECT. Other Leonard videos are on this site as well. A must-see video about our consumerist society.
THE TRUTH ABOUT CANCER, info page and trailer, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/takeonestep/cancer/video-ch_01.html. An excellent PBS documentary set in the Boston hospital cancer complex that takes on the issue of how ineffective cancer treatments are—though the lens of a woman whose husband died of lung cancer. Very well done.
QUEEN OF THE SUN, http://www.queenofthesun.com/. Compares the current plight of bees with that of canaries in the coal mines—which points to our own future food crisis if we don’t change our ways. Has views of the California almond fields that get across the enormous amounts of land this monocrop takes up. Directed by Taggart Siegel, who also directed THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN. Currently making the film festival circuit and getting many well-deserved awards.