Movies that Matter – Issue 7

Learning about the world’s problems and the creative solutions needed to overcome them often means searching for hidden gems between the folds of sub-cultures. For the time-poor majority in our society film is an unrivalled medium for informing and inspiring, and the movies that matter are the ones that have the potential to change minds and inspire action. Two new movies that matter have made it onto our must-watch list in this issue of SHIFT…

New releases:

Rise of the Eco-Warriors

Released: 2014

Running time: 105 mins

Viewing options: This feature-length documentary can be purchased on DVD from the Rise of the Eco-Warriors website

Rise of the Eco Warriors is an earnest documentary that treks uncharted territory, engaging a group of passionate but inexperienced young people in a mission that takes them far from their comfort zone. It is an experiment, and one with high stakes.

Borrowing from reality TV in a way that appeals to those who can’t stomach reality TV, the film documents these young people over the course of 100 days in the jungles of Borneo. Their task? To protect the rainforests – from destructive practices both legal and illegal – and give hope to endangered orangutans.

This is a serious challenge, and the odds are stacked against the young idealists as they work to find ways to help the local communities to protect their forest, guided in their mission by the inspirational Dr. Willie Smits, conservationist, animal rights activist, wilderness engineer, and founder of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.

Over their time in Borneo, the young idealists learn what it takes to be an eco-warrior – an individual prepared to rise to the challenges we face and take action to avert global catastrophe. The eco-warriors’ journey is less one of heroism and more one of humility – the willingness to do something, no matter how small or humble, to build a more humane and balanced world.

Their message? Every individual matters, and every action counts. This is a film for a new generation of activists, but not just for young people. Brimming with inspiration and a sense of empowerment – that good things can be achieved with the will to try – Rise of the Eco-Warriors could do worse than achieve what its title suggests it might.

Disruption

Released: 2014

Running time: 52:27

Viewing options: This documentary can be viewed free of charge online at Films for Action

Disruption is a brave documentary aimed at mobilizing the mainstream to take action on climate change. The film details our unique moment in history as both the first generation to feel the impacts of climate disruption, and the last generation with a shot at doing something about it.

With the courage to tackle such depressing topics as climate tipping points and feedback loops, this documentary goes beyond the obvious ‘climate change is real’ message, and gets into the nitty gritty of how bad it may turn out to be, and how badly we don’t want to find that out the hard way. Disruption also goes beyond the standard 2-degree wiggle-room narrative, and points out how damning this seemingly modest increase in global temperature would be – particularly for the world’s poorest, who are disproportionately affected. Climate change is a social justice issue, and Disruption makes this abundantly clear, calling for recognition of climate change as far more than just an environmental concern.

The film is narrow in scope when it comes to addressing the causes of climate change, however, focusing entirely on the fossil fuel industry – and contrasting it uncritically with the technological ‘fixes’ of the green energy industry. Land use issues such as deforestation, ‘development’ and agriculture are absent from the critique, as is the driver of destruction: economic growth. But fossil fuel exploitation is plenty to build a movement around, and it’s a movement that’s gathering momentum. Disruption has its place in the suite of inspirational tools for mobilizing the all-too-silent majority.

If you’re already a climate activist then perhaps Disruption is not for you, as it presents nothing new. But it is most definitely for your concerned-but-not-activist friends and family, and will hopefully move them from the edge of their seats to being fully up and active.

 

Play catch-up:

Ever feel like you’re running to stand still when it comes to getting on top of what’s going on in the world? We feel that way all the time, so we’ve rubbed our heads together in a collaborative effort to get up to speed. Here’s where we play catch-up, with viewing recommendations for getting you up to speed with peak oil, the downside of ‘progress’, and the creative wonders of low-tech sustainable living…

Peak oil

A Crude Awakening

Released: 2007

Running time: 1:22:52

Viewing options: This feature-length documentary can be viewed free of charge online at Films for Action

A Crude Awakening tells the story of our civilization’s addiction to oil, and points out a harsh, but obvious truth: our industrial society – built on cheap, abundant oil – cannot continue indefinitely. The film concludes that we need to completely re-imagine society before the dawn of the post-peak oil era.

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil 

Released: 2006

Running time: 53:06

Viewing options: This documentary can be viewed free of charge online at Films for Action

Cuba provides an interesting petri dish for what life in a post-peak oil society may look like, having already experienced sudden scarcity in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1990. This film provides a message of hope by showcasing the resilience and resourcefulness of the Cuban people in dealing with their peak oil crisis and transitioning to localized economies at human scale.

The End of Suburbia

Released: 2004

Running time: 78 minutes

Viewing options: A short version of this documentary can be viewed free of charge online at Films for Action, and the complete version can be purchased on DVD from the End of Suburbia website.  

Most of western civilization lives in the artificial constructs of suburbs, heavily reliant on oil for all aspects of daily life. The End of Suburbia examines what a post-peak oil future may have in store for life in the suburbs.

Collapse & the ‘progress trap’

The Crisis of Civilization

Released: 2011

Running time: 1:17:30

Viewing options: This feature-length documentary can be viewed free of charge online at Films for Action

Based on the book by Nafeez Ahmed, the Crisis of Civilization investigates the converging crises of ecological disaster, financial meltdown, and peak oil. In a ‘perfect storm’ of crisis, it is clear that our failing global system is in dire need of overhaul. 

Surviving Progress

Released: 2011

Running time: 1:26:38

Viewing options: This feature-length documentary can be viewed free of charge online at Films for Action

‘Progress’ is often taken for granted as the purpose of the human enterprise, but Surviving Progress reveals a history of past civilizations destroyed by the ‘progress trap’. Under the microscope in this film are the onward march of technology, and the belief systems that serve immediate needs and wants at the expense of the future – placing intolerable pressures on the planet’s resources and environment.

Industrial food systems

Food Inc.

Released: 2008

Running time: 1:33:44

Viewing options: This feature-length documentary can be viewed free of charge online at Films for Action

An exposé of modern society’s industrial food system, Food Inc. showcases the grim realities of the corporate-controlled food industry. Although unflattering in the extreme, Food Inc. is engaging, and reaches much further than preaching to the choir on the issue of hi-tech food production.

Small-footprint, self-sufficient living 

We The Tiny House People

Released: 2012

Running time: 86 minutes

Viewing options: This feature-length documentary can be viewed free of charge online at Films for Action

We The Tiny House People explores the tiny homes of people searching for simpler, more minimalist, more self-sufficient alternatives to the ‘bigger is better’ approach to modern living. Converted garages, trailers, tool sheds, and other unconventional living spaces make for interesting, creative alternatives to the McMansions that have left American Dreamers unsatisfied.

Garbage Warrior

 Released: 2007

Running time: 86 minutes

Viewing options: This feature-length documentary can be purchased on DVD from the Garbage Warrior website

Renegade architect Michael Reynolds has earned himself the title of ‘Garbage Warrior’ for his unorthodox choices of building materials and styles – favouring rammed earth-filled tyres for thermal mass, and finding innovative uses for many other discarded items. ‘Earthship Biotecture’ is the result of Reynolds’ 30-year journey, and the pioneers of this self-sufficient, off-grid mode of construction demonstrate its resilience even in the wake of natural disasters.

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