Movies and Documentaries
Office of Sustainability
Other Recommended Movies
A Selection of Movie Reviews
Without words, cameras show us the world, with an emphasis not on "where," but on "what's there." It begins with morning, natural landscapes and people at prayer: volcanoes, water falls, veldts, and forests; several hundred monks do a monkey chant. Indigenous peoples apply body paint; whole villages dance. The film moves to destruction of nature via logging, blasting, and strip mining. Images of poverty, rapid urban life, and factories give way to war, concentration camps, and mass graves. Ancient ruins come into view, and then a sacred river where pilgrims bathe and funeral pyres burn. Prayer and nature return. A monk rings a huge bell; stars wheel across the sky. (www.imbd.com)
Blue Vinyl (2002)
When director Judith Helfand (A Healthy Baby Girl) heard her parents were affixing blue vinyl siding to their house, she decided to find out how this product was created and disposed of. She and co-director Daniel B. Gold travel the world to point out how vinyl has caused numerous health problems. Included in their travels is a visit to Venice where businessmen who headed a vinyl company are on trial for manslaughter, and interviews with former employees of vinyl-producing factories who now suffer from cancer. Blue Vinyl was screened at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, and aired as part of HBO's America Undercover series. (www.fandango.com)
Black Gold (2006)
Black Gold doesn't shout at you, vilify any single corporation or government, or make you feel guilty about really liking coffee.
It does, however, invite you to see a very nuanced and sensitive view of an entire economic and social system that isn't working very well. This isn't "the anti-Starbucks movie" a la Supersize Me. This is a movie that starts the conversation about our trade system and the West's relationship with countries that feed us. Black Gold makes you want to get involved or inform yourself but doesn't map out exactly how, leaving it up to you. It isn't narrated by any off-screen voiceovers and doesn't tell you exactly what to think. (www.imdb.com)
China Blue (2005)
Take a trip to the place where blue jeans are born in this revealing, clandestinely shot documentary from filmmaker Micha Peled, exploring the plight of South China factory workers struggling to balance Western demands with shrinking wages. Though at first 16-year-old Jasmine is excited to be working alongside her family as a thread-cutter at the Lifeng Factory in Shaxi, South China, her initial enthusiasm is soon squelched by 16-hour work days and payment that makes minimum wage look like a luxury. Pressured by Western companies to shrink their manufacturing costs to impossibly low numbers, the workers who toil away day after day in these factories are often left with little more than dreams of operating their own business when their bodies finally succumb to the damaging effects of their duties. (www.fandango.com)
The Corporation (2003)
In the mid-1800s, corporations began to be recognized as individuals by U.S. courts, granting them unprecedented rights. The Corporation, a documentary by filmmakers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott and author Joel Bakan, delves into that legal standard, essentially asking: if corporations were people, what kind of people would they be? Applying psychiatric principles and FBI forensic techniques, and through a series of case studies, the film determines that this entity, the corporation, which has an increasing power over the day-to-day existence of nearly every living creature on earth, would be a psychopath. The case studies include a story about how two reporters were fired from Fox News for refusing to soft-pedal a story about the dangers of a Monsanto product given to dairy cows, and another about Bolivian workers who banded together to defend their rights to their own water supply. The pervasiveness of corporate influence on our lives is explored through an examination of efforts to influence behavior, including that of children. The filmmakers interview leftist figures like Michael Moore, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, and Noam Chomsky, and give representatives from companies Burson Marsteller, Disney, Pfizer, and Initiative Media a chance to relay their own points-of-view. The Corporation won the Best Documentary World Cinema Audience Award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. (www.fandango.com)
The End of Suburbia (2004)
Since World War II North Americans have invested much of their newfound wealth in suburbia. It has promised a sense of space, affordability, family life and upward mobility. As the population of suburban sprawl has exploded in the past 50 years, so too the suburban way of life has become embedded in the American consciousness. Suburbia, and all it promises, has become the American Dream. But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now, some scientists and policy makers argue in this documentary. The consequences of inaction in the face of this global crisis are enormous. What does Oil Peak mean for North America? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today's suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to avoid The End of Suburbia? (www.imdb.com)
The Future of Food (2004)
Farming was once one of the most common professions in America, but now the growing of food for America's dinner tables is primarily in the hands of a small number of large agricultural corporations. With deregulations placing less federal scrutiny on how crops are grown, and an increasing number of "agri-business" firms introducing genetically modified vegetables and grains, some experts have begun to question just what we are eating, and how it got that way. At a time when some firms have started seeking patents for new strains of modified seeds and plants, will there come a day when the growing of certain essential foodstuffs will be controlled by private corporations who own a "copyright" on, say, wheat or tomatoes? The Future of Food is a documentary which focuses on growing concerns over how our crops are produced, and how science is altering the foods we eat. (www.imdb.com)
Kilowatt Ours (2007)
Follow filmmaker Jeff Barrie as he searches. Along the way you'll meet power companies, schools, businesses and everyday Americans finding ways to meet our energy needs using conservation and green power. Find out how Jeff and his wife Heather cut their energy bills in half and use a portion of the savings to buy green power. Best of all, Kilowatt Ours will teach you how to dramatically reduce your own energy bill and improve the environment at the same time!
King Corn (2007)
King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America's most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat-and how we farm. (www.imdb.com)
Mardis Gras: Made in China (2004)
One of the better known traditions of the annual Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, LA is the beads -- most folks wear lots of cheap plastic beads while they wander the city's streets in search of fun, and men hoping that women will flash their breasts usually toss ladies their beads in what they hope will be considered a fair exchange. However, while in New Orleans, those beads symbolize a wild party and low-level exhibitionism, on the other side of the world they mean something else. In Fuzhou, China, a man named Roger Wong owns a factory that produces the majority of the beads tossed to strangers during Mardi Gras, and to his employees, the beads mean work days of 14 to 20 hours, for which they are paid less than ten cents an hour. Most of the workers in Wong's plant are young women, whom he says are less likely to cause trouble or make demands than their male equivalent. The workers live in a dormitory where they can be fined one month's wages if a member of the opposite sex is found in their ro0m. And most are struggling to support themselves and their families on wages that are low even by the standards of a Chinese sweatshop. Mardi Gras: Made in China is a documentary which explores the dramatic contrast between the conditions under which Mardi Gras beads are made and what happens with them once they arrive in the United States; both American revelers and Chinese workers are given a perspective on how the other half lives, and what can be done to make their circumstances more equitable. (www.fandango.com)
Just over the border in Mexico is an area peppered with maquiladoras: massive sweatshops often owned by the world's largest multinational corporations. Carmen and Lourdes work at maquiladoras in Tijuana, and it is there that they try to balance the struggle for survival with their own radicalization in this documentary. (www.imdb.com)
The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)
In Milagro, a small town in the American Southwest, Ladd Devine plans to build a major new resort development. While activist Ruby Archuleta and lawyer/newspaper editor Charlie Bloom realize that this will result in the eventual displacement of the local Hispanic farmers, they cannot arouse much opposition because of the short term opportunities offered by construction jobs. But when Joe Mondragon illegally diverts water to irrigate his bean field, the local people support him because of their resentment of water use laws that favor the rich like Devine. When the Governor sends in ruthless troubleshooter Kyril Montana to settle things quickly before the lucrative development is cancelled, a small war threatens to erupt. (www.imdb.com)
The Next Industrial Revolution (2001)
Tells the story of an architect and chemist's movement to bring together ecology and human design. It explores how businesses are transforming themselves to work with nature and enhance profitability.
Oil on Ice (2004)
This documentary connects the fate of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge to critical decisions America makes about energy policy. Caught in the balance are the Gwich'in Indians and the migratory wildlife in this fragile ecosystem.
Arctic Quest: Our search for truth (2001)
This award winning documentary explores the debate surrounding oil drilling in America's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as seen through the eyes of five teenagers. These five young explorers take viewers on a heart warming, educational, and balanced investigation of this controversy.
Revolution Green (2007)
Based on a true story this documentary follows the lives of two men whose vision creates America's first sustainable biodeisel refinery in Maui back in 1996. It studies the evolution of their company including their partnership with music legend Willie Nelson to bring this alternative fuel to mainstream recognition.
The Power of One (1992)
This movie starring Morgan Freeman follows the story of a young man who overcomes adversity through the help of a wise prisoner who teaches him how to box. The young man takes what he learns to fight injustice he sees around him and finds that one person can really make a difference.