Five for Friday: Five Must-see Environmental Films

From March 11- 22, Washington D.C. is hosting the 17th annual Environmental Film Festival, which showcases a wide range of films that “capture the majesty of our world and address the ever-increasing threats to life on earth.” The focus of this year’s festival is the oceans (seems like a hot topic this month!): “the final frontier, source of all life, covering nearly three quarters of the globe but less known than the surface of the moon.”

Movies are a great way to inspire people and mobilize them to action. In the case of environmental films, this is especially true. I would like to share five favorite films, some that were featured in this year’s festival as well as a few that I have personally been inspired by.

1. Baraka

While this film was not featured in the festival this year, it remains one of my favorite environmental films of all time, and for good reason. Despite lacking a vocal narrative or traditional linear structure, the film speaks volumes about the relationship between mankind and the eternal. I would attempt to describe it in greater detail, but the film defies explanation, and in this sense must be seen to be understood.

It has recently been remastered using the Blu-Ray format, with Roger Ebert describing it as, “the finest video disc I have ever viewed or ever imagined.”

2. WALL-E
March 21
2 PM @ the National Geographic Society
17th & M ST NW

I’m not normally one to go see animated features (read: cartoons), even if they are Pixar films. Reasons being: I don’t have a kid and I don’t want to be surrounded by 400 kids while watching a movie. However, while doing research in Alaska this summer, I found myself at the movie theatre with no definitive choice of what to watch. WALL-E was one of my options, and seeing as how it was early in the day, I figured I would be spared from the legion of children.

I made a great decision: this movie is simply amazing. With astonishing graphics, a terrific story and a strong message, WALL-E transcends the realm of “kids’ movie.” Incendiary in its condemnation of pollution and consumption, the film makes a bold statement that, frankly, the world needs to see.


3. Ashes from the Sky / Cenizas del Cielo
I went and saw this movie last Saturday, partly because I love the Spanish language, and partly because it was free…and also because it was in the environmental film festival, of course. While this is not a documentary, it does deal with real-world issues relating to pollution from coal burning power plants.

Set in Asturias, Northern Spain, the film weaves together the bucolic life of a rural village with a strong eco-message about the battle of man against development–without seeming overly preachy. At times the movie does delve into seemingly ‘telenovela’-style drama, but on the whole, it is thoroughly enjoyable.

4. An Inconvenient Truth
I don’t feel that this film needs any introduction, but for those that have not heard about or seen it, it is a film version of Al Gore’s now infamous speech on the “climate crisis.” I saw this film in Gainesville, Florida, while traveling a few summers ago. It was a really hot day outside and I figured I could kill some time at the movies. This was the only film playing that seemed like it would be worth my time and money, so I bought my ticket and made my way to the screen.

I was the only person in the entire theatre.

After viewing the film and realizing the importance of its message, my solitude was rather disheartening. It was not like the whole place was empty: people were seeing other movies… just not this one. Since then, the film has garnered high praise and is well received by critics from around the world. With its current availability on DVD, watching this movie should be a no-brainer.

5. The Greening of Southie (Sarah Jane’s pick)
South Boston has always bled green, but, historically, affinity for the earthy hue has been linked to the Emerald Isle from which pluralities of neighborhood residents trace their ancestry. Today, as their compatriots in the old country explore sustainable energy alternatives including wave power–a story we reported on in the March My Wonderful World newsletter–South Boston residents are likewise thinking differently about the concept of “green”–whether they want to, or not.

 “The Greening of Southie” chronicles construction of Boston’s first gold-standard, LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building, a luxury apartment complex erected at the crossroads of Boston city-proper and the South Boston peninsula. The case study raises critical questions of accessibility by addressing topics such as gentrification, environmental education, and cost nuances associated with green building. Through funny, thought-provoking interviews with developers, construction workers, and local residents, we hear multiple perspectives on the pluses and pitfalls. 

The film is a must-see for all concerned with how to increase buy-in across the economic spectrum to grow environmentalism from a niche interest into a mass movement–or anyone who just wants to indulge in the charming (no bias here :-) Boston accent and have a little laugh.

Cameron and Sarah for My Wonderful World

One response to “Five for Friday: Five Must-see Environmental Films

  1. I do like your picks, except for Inconvenient Truth. When I was teaching I warned my students about taking it as gospel. Wrong statements like islands being evacuated (so far no one can name one) and China not allowing American cars because of emission standards (I take it he does not invest in Detroit [1]) led a British judge to declare nine fallacies concerning the movie [2].
    [1] http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-06/17/content_6767990.htm
    [2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/7037671.stm

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