Friday, August 1, 2008

Sustainble Cinema

I'm a bookworm. I mean a total bookworm. Ever since I was a kid, I've gobbled up books by the dozens. Lately, my drug of choice is environmentally relevant books. Shocker, I know.
But there are times when a book just won't do. Perhaps you're too tired. Or you need something more visual. Or you'd like to share environmental ideas with someone who doesn't have time to read. In those cases, its nice to know that there is a lot of seriously sustainable cinema.

A year ago, my husband and I went to see The 11th Hour, a documentary produced by Leonardo Di Caprio. It didn't last long in theatres, didn't bring in much money and didn't catch media attention like its predecessor, The Inconvenient Truth. It was, however, an eye opening film full of truth and optimism. It solidified my desire to reduce my personal environmental impact and gave me hope. It persuaded my husband that climate change is happening much quicker than expected and that there are ways we can blunt its force if only we act now. We left the theater with the voices of Paul Hawken and others, as they formulated ideas for change, for overcoming, echoing in our heads. We were invigorated and determined to make a difference. Ten months later, my family has embraced green living. We've become vocal and active in our community and my husband has explored technical solutions for a more sustainable future.

While not quite as impactful, we also enjoyed King Corn when it was shown on PBS several months ago. By the time I watched King Corn, I'd read The Omnivore's Dilemma with its descriptions of the massive amounts of corn produced in this country. The written word is powerful but even Michael Pollan could not convey the true enormity of the corn pyramids of Iowa, the vast fields that stretch across counties and states. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and, in this case, it was true. The movie was light-hearted, fairly objective and brought home just what the Farm Bill and subsidies have done to our food system. After watching this movie, I've never thought of corn - or its five million derivatives, the same again.

Earlier this week, Eco 'Burban Mom wrote about the impact of An Inconvenient Truth on her middle school boys. It made them more aware but in ways that they can digest the issue of global warming - as it impacts their lives, their hobbies.

What meaningful movies would you recommend? Did any change your life or the life of someone you know? Do you feel they augment what you have read in books or take away from that experience?

For those of you, like me, frantically tracking down the awesome recommendations everyone is throwing out there, please check back next week. I will post a follow up with all the titles neatly jotted down, with links, and a few words about the movies. That way, all we need to do is grab some popcorn (hmm, maybe not after King Corn) and start watching.


Robj98168 said...

I would have to reccomend "Who Killed the Electric Car" it showed why the EV1, which was only available for lease, controlled by GM, failed. IT was never allowed to succeed. Was an eye opening movie on the sheer bullshit the car companies put the american consumer through. I highly reccomend it

Burbanmom said...

I too like "Who Killed the Electric Car". But like you, I prefer books.

Alana said...

I was shocked by Who killed the Electric Car. BUt it's not a "movie", but I love the story of stuff and showed it to my high schoolers. It's only 20 minutes, but changed the way I shop.

jennconspiracy said...

I recommend "Blue Vinyl" - great movie for the light green or convert-able.

Abbie said...

I like Blue Vinyl, too. I have a lot of stuff I taped off PBS/CNN/Discovery to show my kids. "It could happen tomorrow" from CNN (?) is good. Also there's one about climate change that Alanis Morisette hosts, but I forget the name. I like that one better than Inconvenient Truth. There's also a series on CT Public Television called "CT's Energy Future" hosted by Alan Alda, which is really good. "Supersize Me" is good, too. After watching that one with my bio kids when it first came out, we purchased some french fries and put them in a glass jar like he does in the extras. They're 4 years old and still sitting in my classroom.
The "Planet Earth" series is so great. I bought the boxed set, and my students love to watch them. I've used them to teach about water, evolution, ecosystems, the role of plants in the ecosystem, adaptations...
I so wanted to tape King Corn, but it never ended up playing in my area. I'll have to actually BUY it to show my botany class.

Bobbi said...

I'd like to recommend King Corn also. Blockbuster has it. But so far mine doesn't have Who Killed the Electric Car or A Crude Awakening, which I also heard is good. Any ideas about where I might rent them?

Kim from Milwaukee said...

On the Sundance Channel, the series "The Green" has been very influential to me. Robert Redford hosts it, and every week they talk about positive things that companies and individuals are doing to reduce their impact and create products that won't harm our environment. I'm not sure if they can be viewed on their website, but I would think so (can't check here at work, sorry).

There's also a program about a family in England going green, called 'It's not easy being green'. It's very informative and shows what they've done to make changes in their lives to live off the grid. It's also on the Sundance Channel.

spelled with a K said...

I liked 11th hour because it was optimistic, had I only seen the first half I probably would be still curled up in the fetal position.

What would Jesus Buy is fantastic, I love the rev. billy.

King corn, story of stuff, who killed the electric car, manufacturing consent, all of them definitely worth watching.

I am eagerly anticipating "homegrown" which is going to feature the dervaes family as well.

arduous said...

I really recommend "Who Killed the Electric Car" as well as "Supersize Me." I didn't love "Fast Food Nation" the movie nearly as much as "Fast Food Nation" the book, but my uncle and aunt who hadn't read FFN watched the movie and swore off beef.

Natalie said...

I can't believe I still haven't seen King Corn or the 11th Hour!

I just loved Supersize Me. And I think The Story of Stuff has influenced everyone I know who has seen it. Who Killed the Electric Car was probably the most informative. I really didn't know much about cars prior to seeing that. My husband was very moved by that one, too.

But my favorite - not sure why exactly - was the HBO movie Too Hot Not To Handle by Laurie David. I find her so compelling as a person. The story, as she told it, was simple to understand yet thorough and pointed. I'm not sure I learned anything new, but I would recommend it over Inconvenient Truth for those who are still on the fence.

kale for sale said...

Great idea to talk about green movies. You are the Bob Dylan of blog ideas! I have a few kind of green, where does our food come from, how do we treat our food kind of movies. The first is All In This Tea. I loved this film. It focuses on tea but illustrates the workings of our food system at large too. I also thoroughly enjoyed How To Cook Your Life about the Tassajara bread baking monkish guy, Ed Brown. Funny, heartwarming, discouraging looks at how we treat our food. And lastly, the Real Dirt on Farmer John. Not as good as I was expecting but I remember being entertained. Thanks green bean. It was fun remembering all of these and I want to watch the first two again.

eco 'burban mom said...

For those with kids Planet Earth is a wonderful series. For younger kiddies stick with the ones without lions and tigers! Some of that can be a smidge to realistic if you know what I mean. For my older boys we truly enjoy watching them together and talk about how global warming and urban sprawl will affect the planet and the species that live on it. For my youngest (age 4) it has opened his eyes to so many animals and species and some episodes are a nice calming TV break. Planet Earth may not be a "green" movie series persay, but I find it incredibly relevant.

For adults, I second robj and arduous - Who Killed The Electric Car is awesome, and being from the Motor City, it's just so much more powerful for me. Today GM posted a $15 billion loss in the second quarter, Ford posted an $8 billion second quarter loss earlier this week. Any connection there maybe?

Green Bean said...

Rob: Oh yes! I completely forgot about that. I do want to rent it. Can my blood pressure take it?

Burbs: Second rec. Hmm.

Alana: Third rec!!!

Jennconspiracy: Never heard of it. I'll have to check it out. Sounds like a good movie for folks trying to persuade family members.

Abbie: What a bunch of great recs. Leave it to a teacher to know all this stuff! Your students are really lucky . . . and those french fries sound REALLLLLY nasty. I'm not a big french fry eater but that's enough to make me want to never bit into another one again.

Bobbi: Anyone check Netflix? I don't have an account so I don't know. I've actually debated buying the Power of Community (the Cuban organic farming DVD as we couldn't find anywhere to rent it). It might not be a bad idea for a few of us to invest in one DVD. Maybe Burbs might let us trade them around on her yahoo group.

Kim: I'll have to check out the Sundance channel. I'm not sure if we have it. I really like those shows that have real families and real people. They are usually neither depressing nor intimidating.

Spelled with a K: Yes. The first half of 11th hour was pretty dismal. Thank goodness for the second half. I'll have to keep my eyes open for Homegrown. I love the Devraes.

Arduous: Okay. 4th rec for Who Killed the Electric Car. I'm kind of feeling like maybe I should watch it. We never eat fast food but maybe we should do a little SuperSize me as well.

Natalie: Too hot to handle. Okay. Need to look into that one too. You and Rob both mentioned Story of Stuff. I can't believe I forgot that one but you are right. It is technically a movie and a great one.

Katrina: Hey, Katrina? I've got an idea. Want to start a blog together? About movies? Just kidding! I started this post after Green Resolutions and I chatted on the APLS Facebook group about using movies to get through to family members. BTW, why am I not surprised that all of your movies relate to the food and farming? You foodie, you!

EcoBurbs: Okay, that's like the 75th rec for Who Killed the Electric Car. Anyone know where I can get it? I'll have to look into Planet Earth for the boys. That one I actually think I can get at my library.

Natalie said...

Oh, I forgot to mention a documentary I saw a few months back. It's called Burning the Future. It's all about mountain-top coal mining in rural Appalachia. I wouldn't say that it was exceptionally compelling. Very informative and thought-provoking, though. There was one part near the end that had me crying. Not a must-see, but an eye-opener on the topic of coal.

Bugs and Brooms said...

I always prefer books but Affluenza was a great movie version of the novel - it really hit home with my DH who has made a personal decision NOT to buy any new clothes for the year (you don't know him but I promise, that is HUGE)! Films can definitely have an impact - I just did a little review of both An Inconvenient Truth and The 11th Hour on my on blog.

Abbie said...

The name of the one with Alanis Morisette is "Global Warming: The signs and the science." I knew it would come to me.
I also like "Too Hot Not to Handle."
The "Global Tribe" series from PBS is also great, with a woman traveling all over the world exploring lots of different environmental issues. Great for school... but also great for everyone. There's one episode with a family living off of a garbage dump (I think in the Philipines?), and a mother crying about her toddler son that got sick and died. I cry every time I see it, and so do a lot of my students. I make sure I have a new box of tissues on that day!

Abbie said...

OH! I forgot one of the best! "Harvest of Fear" (I think it was a NOVA?) About GM foods. It's a 2-hour long documentary... it's GREAT and eye opening! I highly recommend it!!!

OK now I'm feeling like I need to go visit my classroom so I can sort through my homemade tapes and make a list to post, so I can stop commenting...

Donna said...

I've never seen any of these! What't the one movie you'd recommend for a doesn't-want-to-convert-but-loves-movies family member? (It can't appear to be politically motivated, so Gore's is out.)

Green Resolutions said...

I've been bookmarking titles like crazy. Thanks so much for asking your readers for recommendations!

My husband and I have already talked about getting 11th Hour this weekend. As you suggested, I really think watching some of these will give us a starting point for discussion about changes rather than the offensive/defensive positions we've assumed since I started reading green books and blogs!

Going Crunchy said...

Great post GB!

I loved Six Degrees from Nat Geo, and Supersize Me was a huge eye-opener about fast food. The other films you mentioned were huge in my book as well.

Domestic Accident said...

Am I the first to mention The Story of Stuff?

Allison said...

Nobody mentioned Dances with Wolves! I'm just kidding. (I watch a lot of nature stuff.) But there is a resonating ongoing truth behind the movie that makes you think about how we treat each other and nature. Anyway, I'm getting off subject.

Thank you all for suggesting so many great movies, they are going on my "to watch" list.

Green Bean said...

Natalie: Thanks. Perhaps I should read Lost Mountain and watch Burning the Future in conjunction.

Bugs & Brooms: Oh man! I never saw the Affluenza DVD. And now my library lost its copy! That is wonderful about your husband. I truly believe that most people don't act because they are not truly informed and books are hard for some people to find time or will to get through. I hate to over-generalize but I think movies are great for men too. Most guys I know love a good flick.

Abbie: Awesome. I can't believe I've never seen any of these. What grade do you teach? Is it high school or middle school? It seems that these films can have a real positive impact and I'm wondering at what age.

Abbie2: Harvest of fear. Now that I have heard of. About Monsanto, right? I had a link somewhere to watch in on the computer. Where oh where is it? And don't stop commenting. This is so helpful.

Donna: I don't know. Hmm. I've not seen most of these movies but I wouldn't suggest 11th hour because if is similar. My husband, even though he was persuaded by it, called it "propoganda". Maybe start with something small and chip away at this loved one? King Corn was GREAT in that way. It didn't feel politically motivated at all. The film makers tried to show both sides and they were pretty objective - though it is so clearly obvious what the problem is. I'd start with something like that. Maybe look into Blue Vinyl - which I know nothing about - but was suggested for the "convertable" or light green.

Green Resolutions: I completely agree. It is good to get away from the my side/your side and truly most people care - they just don't understand the breadth of the problem. Nothing like a movie to bring that home.

Shannon: Six Degrees. . . need to go look up.

Domestic Accident: No, a couple of other folks mentioned it too. I can't believe I didn't think of it when I wrote the post. It is a really compelling, easy to follow flick isn't it?

Allison: You know, you are right. Dances with Wolves is to the movies what Little House on the Prairie is to books. It's a story, it is entertaining, you can dismiss it as fluff or, for LHOTP, for children but it has a message and is worth watching.

Fake Plastic Fish said...

I catch up on blog reading at the end of the day via email subscription, so by the time I read posts, all the commenters have pretty much covered what I would have said. Here are mine (Which have already been mentioned by others.)

1) Blue Vinyl - I wrote about it here in fact.

2) What Would Jesus Buy?

3) How to Cook Your Life. My favorite bit, of course, is when Ed Brown says, "Plastic is not sincere."

I have a Netflix movie sitting here that I haven't had time to watch yet: Life After People. Seems like it's on the same theme as the book, The World Without Us. I'll probably write about it once I've finally seen it.

I'm also holding The 11th Hour and need to watch it soon and send it back.

I love Netflix. Especially the movies you can watch on the computer without waiting for them to come through the mail.

Abbie said...

Donna- I would recommend the Planet Earth Series. There's an episode that didn't air originally but included in the box set called "Saving Species." It has top scientists from all over the world commenting on the decline of species everywhere. They show the amazing images typical of Planet Earth, then talk about how hard it was to film them because these incredible animals are disappearing. It is SO beautiful and emotional at the same time, and the perspective you come away with is "I NEED to do something to SAVE these animals!"

GB- I teach high school, AP Environmental Science ("college level") and botany.

Beany said...

I have three recommendations:
1. Pale Male - about a hawk in NYC's Central Park. I liked it because it introduced the concept of wild life to city kids - especially the ones who couldn't wrap around their head the idea that some animals didn't "belong" to anyway.
2. Life in the Freezer - I learned that the Antartic has the largest source of fresh water. This was important because it indicates where the next wars might take place.
3. I heart the Huckabees - I liked this one because of one line, "its the petroleum people!". In that one instance for me the American "prosperity" was very clear to me. Its because of cheap gas so much has taken place. Also that one sex scene showed that love for nature can go a bit far :)

Beany said...

* "belong" to anyone

Chile said...

Add The Future of Food to the list.

Abbie said...

Beany- I love Pale Male! It's amazing to see a city welcome back wildlife and really root for him!

Donna said...

Thanks for the recommendations, gb and abbie. I now have "King Corn" on reserve at the library. I'm like #27 on the list, so it's going to be a while, but I'm looking forward to watching it!

Melissa said...

I didn't see it, but heard great things about "The Garden": I think you should go and send him an email asking him to do a screening in the bay area - I've already bugged him a few times and he said he was thinking about it. It looks really wonderful! :)

Green Bean said...

Thank you everyone for the recommendations. I'm compiling a list with all of them. These look awesome. There are almost as many movies that I want to see now as books I want to read!

Fix said...

I'd also put in for China Blue and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, both movies about human rights as well as environmental exploitation.

I'll look forward to seeing the full list!



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