Environmental Film Reviews

The latest environmental films to add to your watch list

A scene from the documentary We the Power. Courtesy of Mountainfilm

We reviewed movies from this year’s Mountainfilm Festival to find out which ones are worth your time.

More people are getting vaccinated, summer is on the horizon, and the Mountainfilm Festival is back. After going virtual last year, the annual event is combining the best of both worlds in 2021. There will be a small, in-person festival in Telluride, Colorado, over Memorial Day weekend, as well as a weeklong virtual festival starting on May 31.

As a media sponsor for this year’s event, Grist reviewed seven documentaries and shorts of the more than 120 featured at the festival, available to stream for a fee. These pieces explore racism in outdoor adventure culture, chronicle the next generation’s fight for a livable planet, and lay out the story of how evangelicals came to politically oppose environmentalism. Some were deeply moving, others left something to be desired — read on for our take on which films are worth your time. Read more


Join Fair Farms on Thursday, May 20th, for the ‘Our Food Future’ film series from the Wild & Scenic Film Festival! Buy tickets today! 

The E3 Initiative For Citizen Engagement On The Lower Shore is pleased to present this virtual Wild & Scenic Film Festival. The nine ‘Our Food Future’ films pose the question: can we grow food with practices that heal the planet, nourish the land and protect our waters? Ticket sales support our collaborative work on the Lower Eastern Shore that strives to do just that. Virtual lobby doors open at 6:30 pm, with films beginning at 7:00 pm.

9 films will explore different sustainable farming practices that prioritize the land and natural resources and share practical, efficient methods to growing and harvesting food.

Films included in Our Food Future are:

  • Beebox
  • Biodynamic Agriculture: Farming in Service of Life
  • Vertical: The Future of Farming
  • Herd Impact
  • Common Ground
  • If You Can Hear My Voice; The Fight to Ban Chlorpyrifos
  • A Fisher’s Right to Know
  • If We Take Care of the Land and Water, It Takes Care of Us
  • Farmscape Ecology

 

Register and buy your tickets today, and don’t forget a raffle ticket! 

Let us know you’re attending by responding to our Facebook event.


‘My Octopus Teacher’ Review: An Eight-Legged Freak Becomes a Friend in Netflix’s Gorgeous Hit Nature Doc

Presenter-producer Craig Foster imposes his own story somewhat heavily on this underwater spectacular, but it’s hard not to be won over.

What “Charlotte’s Web” did in the popular imagination for the humble, much-maligned barn spider, “My Octopus Teacher” sets out to achieve for the eight-limbed mollusc of its title — a creature of great, shimmery beauty and mystery regarded by many with more bemusement than affection. That’s a PR status that has kept hungry humans high on the octopus’ long list of enemies, but Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed’s engaging, massively crowdpleasing Netflix documentary goes out of its way to humanize these amorphous aliens of the sea: both through standard anthropomorphic techniques familiar from the nature-doc playbook of Attenborough and Disney alike, and through the empathetic presence of its producer-narrator, South African filmmaker and conservationist Craig Foster.

Foster’s unexpected kinship with a single octopus, encountered while diving in the richly populated kelp forest of South Africa’s Cape of Storms, gives this simply framed doc its narrative thrust and emotional heft. Cynics might balk at the film’s aggressive manipulation of the heartstrings, but there’s little denying the combined effectiveness of its ravishingly filmed underwater observation and its unabashed but earnest psychological projection. A word-of-mouth phenomenon since its Netflix premiere in September, “My Octopus Teacher” is a surprisingly rare example of an international South African hit centered on the country’s richly diverse environmental tapestry: One can only expect a trail of comparable works in its wake. Read more


Something worth fighting for

Two films tell contrasting stories about the struggle against nuclear power

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Note: Beyond Nuclear, Goethe-Institut, DC and Heinrich Böll Stiftung, DC are making The Beekeeper and 33 Days of Utopia available free to screen at home until April 6. On Tuesday, March 30, at 1pm Eastern US time, please join us, the filmmakers and protagonists for a live discussion about the films and the culture of resistance to nuclear power. Register here.

“And at that point,” says Katie Hayward, halfway through Will McGregor’s short film, The Beekeeper, “I went cold”.

Hayward, the beekeeper of the film’s title, had just seen a news report showing the expanded footprint of the proposed two-reactor Wylfa B nuclear power project on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. Hayward’s home, which her family had tenanted since 1532, was right in the plan’s crosshairs. It would be bulldozed, and the farmland paved over.

Hayward’s fight to save her bees, her home and her rescue animals escalated, while her physical and mental health plummeted. As the farms around her sold out to Horizon — the nuclear subsidiary of site owner, Hitachi — Hayward found herself almost alone, a one-woman David against a corporate Goliath.

Read more at Beyond Nuclear


The Falconer

Photo by Ross Feldner

One of very few Black Master Falconers in the U.S., Rodney Stotts never planned to be an environmentalist. Growing up in marginalized Southeast Washington, D.C., he seemed destined for a life of drugs and street violence but left that behind as he developed a passion for the art and sport of falconry.

This intimate portrait film follows Rodney as he strives to provide his community’s underserved youth and endangered raptors with a safe haven for mutual healing and growth. Acting as his own narrator, Stotts discusses his work as a licensed Master Falconer, environmental educator, and with the Earth Conservation Corps, responsible for bringing the bald eagle back to the Anacostia. The film shows Stotts as he and his youthful helpers from the Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy, run by the D.C. National Guard, begin the demanding work of refurbishing a hundred-year-old dairy barn to create a Raptor Center. Without money, he builds aviaries with donated wood. Without staff, he calls on family, friends, and volunteers for help. His goals are to protect raptors, heal and release them, take care of the birds that are non-releasable, teach young people about caring for the birds and their natural environment, and for a few, how to become falconers.

“All this is healing. All this is medicine. All this changes who you are,” – says Stotts.

The Falconer is a story of second chances: for injured birds of prey, for an abandoned plot of land, for young people who bear the brunt of social and environmental injustice, and for Rodney Stotts himself. Please visit http://www.thefalconerfilm.com for more information.

Because some footage might be upsetting for younger viewers, we recommend The Falconer for high school age and above.


As the U.S. Rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement, Revisit FRONTLINE’s Recent Climate Reporting

“The Paris Agreement is an unprecedented framework for global action. We know because we helped design it and make it a reality,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who previously served in various roles in the Obama administration, said in a statement. “Its purpose is both simple and expansive: to help us all avoid catastrophic planetary warming and to build resilience around the world to the impacts from climate change we already see.”

The Trump administration had officially left the Paris agreement in November 2020, following a process set in motion by President Donald Trump in June 2017 when he vowed to withdraw from the agreement, calling it “draconian” and arguing it was not made on good terms for American taxpayers. Under the non-binding agreement reached in 2015 by world leaders and activated in 2016, the U.S. would have voluntarily reduced its carbon emissions on a schedule American officials set.

For more on the threat and impacts of climate change, revisit FRONTLINE’s reporting in the five stories below — an introduction to our broad coverage of the topic.

1. The Last Generation (2018), an award-winning, interactive look at children living in an island nation threatened by rising seas

2. Fire in Paradise (2019), a film on California’s deadliest-ever wildfire that examines the role of climate change

3. War on the EPA (2017), a documentary examining how the anti-regulatory and anti-climate change science movements in America gained power

4. Greenland Melting (2018), a 360-degree documentary set amid Greenland’s melting glaciers

5. Climate Change in the Classroom (2017-18), a series of stories on the battle over what kids learn about climate change

Read more at Frontline