Posts tagged ‘documentary’
We always think about the effects that humans – and our technology – have on plants, but what about the effects that plants have on us?
In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan (yes, he’s the author of “In Defense of Foods”) walks us through the history of four different plants – potatoes, apples, marijuana and tulips – that have managed to change our lives. Each of these plants contains a defining characteristic that has played on human’s desires for hundreds of years and has enabled it to survive and expand over time.
Whether it is the sweetness of the apple or the beauty of the tulip, these plants have managed to find a weakness in our senses that has led to the mass production of these particular goods.
The style of the documentary is particularly interesting because it is a subject that is very difficult to visualize on screen. How do you show the legend on Johnny Appleseed or the 1600 Dutch economic crisis that occurred because of the desire for tulips?
- Visual reenactments – A shadowy figure of Johnny Appleseed roaming through villages with a bag of seeds.
- Interviews – Michael Pollan talking directly to the camera and telling stories of each plant.
- Aesthetics – There are so many striking visuals to hold the viewer’s attention, whether it is a long shot of carts driving endlessly around a tulip exporting business or a close shot of apples being picked and turned into hard cider. read more…
Have you ever heard of a brinicle?
Yeah, neither had I. At least not until I stumbled across this headline: Nature’s ‘icy finger of death’ captured on tape for first time. I was doubly intrigued as I am always interested in these kinds of firsts plus I had images of snow tornadoes ravaging the countryside dancing through my head. The article is accompanied by this video clip.
Who likes Leonardo DiCaprio? I do!
In the documentary The 11th Hour, co-directors Leonardo DiCaprio, Leila Conners Petersen, and Nadia Conners discuss the environmental threats of our time. Global warming, deforestation, mass species extinction, and depletion of the oceans’ habitats are all addressed and potential solutions to these problems are proposed. The film’s main message is that the future of humanity is in danger because there are too many of us using too many resources too fast. In the film over 50 politicians, scientists, environmental activists, economic historians, and medical specialists share their perspectives.
While alternating between looking through the seemingly endless selection and chasing my daughter through the equally endless aisles of Madison’s Four-Star Vide Heaven, I was handed the display case of 2009’s “The Cove”. After quickly looking at the cover shot and reading the documentary’s tagline, I resigned myself to having to watch a romanticized and possibly anthropomorphic “save the whales” type advocacy piece sometime in the future. Knowing that we could keep the videos indefinitely, I acquiesced to what became our third and final rental choice, allowing us to leave the store. I expected to be able to put off watching the video for a while but knew I’d have to watch it eventually. After two months, “eventually” came this past week, and I was surprised by what I saw.
As the story starts to unfold, the camera follows Ric O’Barry, of “Flipper” fame, as he takes the viewer through coastal and somewhat rural Japan. He arrives at the movie’s name sake; a hidden cove which he says is in a national park. There the viewer gets an immediate sense of real conflict as various locals do whatever they can to impede the progress of the camera operator. After being shown some of O’Barry’s past and how he feels some responsibility for the annual slaughter read more…
As a college student I lack the financial resources to have cable and so I’m stuck with all the basic channels. That means that I watch a lot of PBS kids and old black and white TV shows. Recently I was watching sesame street and their theme of the day was outdoors. In the episode there was a segment with Jason Mraz doing an outdoors themed version of his song “I’m yours”. The segment features a very hip looking Jason singing about the greatness of the outdoors while puppets and little kids dance around him.
The song is catchy but does it really teach anyone anything about the outdoors? About the wilderness and the complex ecosystems that surround us? Of course this is a kids program but even programs for adults seem to rely on some universally accepted intrinsic value of nature. An interesting video I found is called “alone in the wilderness”. It tells the story of Dick Proenneke, who spent 30 years in the Alaskan wilderness. In the “Alone in the Wilderness” clip, Dick Proenneke presents nature as a wonderfully mysterious place that brings great pleasure to us if we allow it to.
I agree with the messages of both pieces, but I do not find them effective in reaching a broad audience. By this I mean that neither will convince someone who doesn’t already care about the environment to care about the environment.
What is wilderness? How do we relate to it? How should we relate to it? My Life as a Turkey explores these and other questions as we follow naturalist Joe Hutto’s transformative journey from man to “turkey mom” as he raises a brood of wild turkeys. Hutto’s journey begins when a neighbor leaves a bowl of wild turkey eggs on his doorstep and he decides to incubate them. To his surprise, his efforts pay off and he was rewarded with 16 healthy birds who he takes under his wing. By using imprinting techniques as the birds hatched, he was able to get them to recognize him as a parent and effectively become their mother. As the turkey mom, Joe was immersed into a world that required him to learn a new way of life and leave his old culture behind. For more than a year Joe lived with the birds, learning to speak turkey, see turkey, and in general, live as turkeys do. read more…
These days, there is always something going on where the goal is to raise money, awareness, and attention to some sort of cause. 5ks for animal shelters, silent auctions for cancer survivors, and raffle tickets for your local library are all great places to invest in. However, it’s not too often that we see someone taking weeks on end to do nothing but simply bring attention to a cause, as in the case of Chris Swain. read more…
Sadly, however, it seems that not only has the kakapo forgotten how to fly, but it has also forgotten that it has forgotten how to fly.
~Douglas Adam in the book Last Chance to See
The Kakapo, the largest flightless parrot that can be found exclusively in New Zealand, is one of the most critically endangered species in the 21st century. One funny fact about them is that they will sometimes hurl themselves off the trees, and instead of ascending into the air, they will fly like a brick, or rather fall like a brick. However, evolution has not completely forsaken them; their large wings help them to break the free fall, and assist the birds to land.
Here Comes the Neighborhood is a “short-form docuseries” that puts on display both the talent of street artists, as well as the revitalizing effect that art can have on communities. The first season focuses on the arts district of Wynwood Miami, which has invited over thirty artists to decorate its walls.
I like the genre a lot. They have high production values and are condensed into 3-6 minute video shorts. They develop a really striking and romantic sense of place in what most people would find to be a blighted neighborhood. After the first couple of episodes, the producers have developed short artists bios with interviews, shots of their art, and travels around Wynwood. Each episode does a pretty compelling job of portraying art as a transformative agent.
Is art enough to transform a place? I wonder how much a novel, ambitious art project can really do about the familiar old problems of poverty, drug addiction, inequality, etc.
You can’t beat a cute animal video.
Cloying music and all, we still love this bat after not very long — and most people would not say that a bat is a “charismatic” animal. Species conservation and rehabilitation is sustained by videos of cute photos and videos of baby sloths, pandas, penguins, etc. Conservation may be a rational, scientific undertaking, but the money is all in the cute.
The students of the first semester of New Media for Environmental Communication finished their final projects, and we are all very proud of the work that came out of it. Visit the Our Work page to see our digital storytelling pieces. You can also visit our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/environmentandmedia) to see the videos.
Recently I have been watching more documentaries, which led Netflix to suggest Food, Inc and on a whim, I decided to watch it. Little did I know how much it would actually affect my thoughts about what I eat and making sure that my food comes from sustainable processes. Food, Inc. strives to diminish “the veil” between the average American consumer and what they eat.
The film is divided into three sections, the industrial production of meat, how the growth grains and vegetables differ from the past, and economic and legal power surrounding food. By beginning with the treatment of animals and people, it starts in a very startling way that sets the tone for the rest of the 93 minutes– how inhumane our food system has truly become. At times, it was hard for me to even watch. As it delves farther, Food, Inc. questions the environmental and economical sustainability of large-scale farming and uses stories of farmers to portray their hardships. The final segment addresses about legislation surrounding food systems, like how the FDA has changed to regulate less, food label laws so people know where they get food, and the power of the fast food system.
In the end though, the movie empowers viewers to change the way they buy food. One of the most poignant statements was that as consumers, we vote whenever we purchase from a grocery store. We vote when we choose potato chips rather than apples or Tyson chicken nuggets rather than chicken from a farmers market. I liked that it promoted change (they even offered tips at the end) and encouraged others to do so.
Although the animation scenes can be gimmick-y at times, I would definitely suggest Food, Inc. to anyone who is interested about food production (and especially if you have instant Netflix). It’s a great blend of factual and emotional evidence with knowledgeable people talking about the subject matter. If you don’t have time, the official website for the movie, Hungry for Change is still a way to educate yourself about these issues and to stay involved.
When you think of oil drilling, do you automatically think of the Middle East? If so, you may want to rethink. Oil drilling occurs in, and greatly affects many areas of the United States, and not just Alaska. Gasland is a film by Josh Fox, a filmmaker, who was actually asked to lease his land out for oil drilling. He decided to do a little research, and discovered some of the hidden effects of oil drilling in the United States. He even found a town in Pennsylvania where residents were able to light their drinking water on fire.
Gasland’s own website describes the film as “part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown.” Sound like fun? Check out the site for more information. The best part of the site is the interactive map that traces Josh’s journey across the United States. You can view the United States’ waterways and how they overlap with drilling areas, as well as view videos of people’s and communities’ stories of how drilling has affected them. The website also includes an interactive diagram about the process of fracking and how it contaminates the environment. Overall, the website is very-well down and I love the interactive features; they really do bring oil drilling closer to home.
To be honest, I didn’t really know what to write about this week. So, I turned to trusty Vimeo for some stellar environmental videos (my favorite media). At first, I thought this movie was just going to be another strict environmentally conscious, tree-hugging kind of movie. However, to my delight, it has an incredibly different and exciting point of view.
Generally, when we think of people who live off the land, we usually picture someone who smokes a lot of marijuana, rides a bike, doesn’t wear underwear, and doesn’t shave. NOT SO. Or, at least not entirely. We are forgetting about some of the most involved environmentalists out there.
This video is taken from the perspective of a group of big mountain skiers who aim to fuse their passions for riding and exploring the mountains with their potential to help the environment. “The film strives to unite global mountain culture and bind us together as the leaders of a revolution.” read more…
Is the title of a documentary made in 2005 by the Austrian filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer. In his 96 minutes movie Wagenhofer traces the origins of our food to France, Spain, Romania, Switzerland, Brazil and back to Austria. The movie features interviews with several people, including Jean Ziegler, he was the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food from 2000 – 2008, Peter Brabeck, director of Nestlé International, as well as fishermen, farmers, and biologists and shows us, how our food system is connected to problems around the world.
The movie reveals that in Vienna, the same amount of bread is thrown away than is consumed in Graz, the second largest city of Austria, every day. Brazil grows soy beans that are exported to Austrian to feed life stock while local people starve and every European citizen consumes 10 kilogram of vegetables from southern Spain, which causes water shortage in the area.
Some critical voices say, that people were more shocked by the scene with suffering baby chicken than the starving family in Latin America. Nevertheless, the movie is not too emotional and tries to show facts. Even the interview with the Nestlé director is just what his standpoint is – though that is shocking enough!
I think I saw the movie in school, it is a very popular movie teachers showed their classes, which is really great, as I think children or teenager are the ones that can change most in the future!
“Today, every child who dies of hunger, is being murdered .”
Jean Ziegler, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food