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To act you have to know - The best documentary movies about “our” topic (part I.)

Published 16th November 2010 - 0 comments - 7519 views -

Do you know any documentary film about global warming, green challenges or environmental protection problems? Probably sure. There is my small handbook for you to find out more interesting movies for your blogging topics.  I hope there will be some evening inspiration for you also = do not watch Hollywood thrillers every night! grin


A Place Without People
Andreas Apostolides / Greece / 2009 / 52 min.

The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is regarded as a model example of how mankind should look after the wilderness. However, what is less well known is the fact that its original inhabitants, the Maasai, are barred from setting foot inside the park, which is the size of Belgium. Over half a century ago, the British colonial masters systematically expelled the Maasai from their homes, and that policy has continued under the government of independent Tanzania. Why? It may be because the original inhabitants would spoil tourists' views of elephants, lions and zebras. Or perhaps it is linked to hunting: the Maasai are prohibited from hunting the animals that tourists pay large sums to bag. Director Andreas Apostolides documents the history of the origin of uninhabited national parks in the USA, which was linked to the expulsion of their Native American populations. It is clear in the sad fate of the Maasai how Western concepts of conservation and nature tourism have a negative impact on original inhabitants who have lived in the wilderness for centuries.



Bogotá Change
Andreas M. Dalsgaard / Denmark / 2009 / 58 min.

The Colombian capital Bogotá (population seven million) was one of the most dangerous cities in the world before 1994. Kidnappings and killings were commonplace, while drug cartels controlled both the police and the authorities in a city marked by chaos. Nevertheless, two politicians succeeded in turning Bogotá around. The first of them, the "crazy" Antanas Mockus from the National University of Colombia, first came to public attention when he pulled his trousers down in front of a crowd of demonstrating students. Regarded as a symbol of sincerity, he was the first independent candidate elected as Bogotá's mayor. He succeeded in reducing traffic congestion and road deaths and instilled a sense of "citizenship" in voters. He was followed by Enrique Penalosa, who continued the renewal of the city while advancing democratic principles. Penalosa oversaw the creation of a public transport network, bicycle paths, libraries in the suburbs, parks and playgrounds. Andreas M. Dalsgaard's film shows just how much success in local politics can be linked to the moral character of individuals.

full version


Garbage Dreams
Mai Iskander / USA / 2009 / 79 min.

The protagonists of Mai Iskander's documentary are teenage Zaballeen (meaning "garbage people"), an Arabic term used to describe Cairo's social class. The film chronicles everyday life in the suburb of Mokattan, the biggest "garbage settlement" in the world. For the local community of 60,000 people, collecting and processing the waste of Cairo's 18 million inhabitants has been their only livelihood for a century. We see the youngsters in their pitiable dwellings and at work, as well as on an exchange trip to Wales. They dream of having their own waste-processing facilities and of getting married early, but these hopes evaporate when the highly effective system that enables the inhabitants of Mokattan to recycle 80 % of all waste is replaced by a much less efficient system that relies on modern technology from Italian and Spanish firms. This film depicting globalisation's destructive impact on the fate of individuals, as well as on an entire community is Iskander's debut, and it was on the short-list for this year's Oscar nominations.



Mumbai Disconnected
Camilla Nielsson, Frederik Jacobi / Denmark / 2009 / 58 min.

The Indian city of Mumbai will probably become the most populous megacity in the world by 2020. It pulsates every day with human masses travelling to work. At the same time, however, public transport in the city is already completely dysfunctional. The city's trains are famous for the fact that people literally have to fight to get on board. Every day the streets are inundated with countless cars. The film's three protagonists hold a different opinion on how Mumbai's transport system should be modernised. Yasin lives in a northern suburb. He travels to work by train or on a motorbike, and dreams of one day buying his own car. Veena represents the affluent inhabitants of Pedder Road in the fight to prevent the building of flyovers in the city centre. Mr. Das is vice-president of a state company that is 10 years behind schedule in building roads and a bridge linking the commercial district to the centre. This dynamic movie by Camilla Nielsson and Frederik Jacobi moves from one incredible situation to another and poses the following question: Is a healthy environment simply a luxury for the social elite?



Recipes for Disaster: Katastrofin aineksia
John Webster / Finland / 2008 / 85 min.

"I can't clean my teeth, because my brush is made of plastic," says director John Webster's younger son in this documentary. Living in Finland, he and his family decided to try and survive for one year without using any products that were manufactured using oil. Webster's desire to minimise his environmental footprint arose after he began noticing all the problems associated with global warming and the depletion of natural resources. Nonetheless, swapping the car for the bus, trains for planes, a dinghy for a motorboat or buying basic groceries in the shop is not always easy, particularly for a family with children. Even the most motivated people begin to have doubts when things get complicated and uncomfortable. Discord starts to plague the four-member family. In the year that elapses from the time a firm decision is made to switch to an environmentally acceptable way of life, compromises and simple solutions are eventually resorted to. Is it possible to behave ecologically and not destroy your family's happiness at the same time? Would you take the same experiment?

full version in Polish


Stephanie Soechtig / Canada, USA / 2009 / 75 min.

Bottled water is the greatest advertising and marketing fraud in the world, says media analyst Barbara Lippert in Stephanie Soechtig's documentary. Quite simply, taking free drinking water, putting it into bottles, distributing it around the world and selling it back to people is an easy way to make money. At the same time, the film shows that the water in plastic bottles is often the same water that flows from the mains in all American households. The director also reveals how Nestlé, Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola use legal loopholes to avoid paying taxes on their use of water and recycling, publishing the results of studies on the health and safety of their activity as well as taking moral responsibility for their business. A group of independent experts, activists and journalists also warn that bottled water doesn't just hurt our wallets. Plastic bottles contain substances that are harmful to human health. These can contribute to the incidence of cancer, infertility and other ailments. Moreover, the excessive use of water and the inadequate recycling of plastic are a threat to the environment.



The End of the Line
Rupert Murray / UK / 2009 / 83 min.

"Usually, the only thing we know about a piece of fish on our plate is that it is good for our bodies," says British journalist Charles Clover, who wrote The End of the Line. "But we lack other information that we should want to know - where does this fish come from, how was it caught and whether it is an endangered species." Clover's book inspired the director Rupert Murray to make this documentary about global fishing. The speed at which fishing is now carried out around the globe means that it is not possible for nature to renew its resources. The principal difficulty is a failure to observe fishing quotas, which the film claims China and some European states are guilty of. Another problem consists of the uneconomical harvesting of large quantities of fish, and the important role played by the fact that some species are preferred over others, particularly giant tuna, which is much sought after by gourmets. This visually gripping documentary puts forward some basic principles as to how individuals can intervene in the battle to save the balance of life in the world's oceans.



There Once was an Island: Te Henua e Nnoho
Briar March / New Zealand / 2009 / 80 min.

At first glance Takku Island, which is home to 400 Polynesians, looks like heaven on Earth. A harmonious community living in isolation on this little island lapped by the clear waters of the South West Pacific devotes itself to traditional rituals and music, making their living by fishing, and relaxing in the shade of coconut trees. Nevertheless, global warming has resulted in rising sea levels that have flooded the coral island several times in recent years. This has led the Polynesian government to create a plan to move the islanders to the mainland. However, they are unenthusiastic about what would be a step into the unknown. Instead, the inhabitants invite two expert scientists to Takku in the hope that they will find some solution. This film by New Zealand director Briar March, featuring great camera work and a cinéma vérité style, documents how environmental change can impact upon a native community. Through portraits of individual islanders, it also offers a unique view of the traditional thinking and way of life of the Polynesians, a people whose harmonious co-existence with nature has been harshly interrupted by the negative results of climate change.

trailer and link for the full film


Fredrik Gertten / Sweden / 2009 / 88 min.

The use of the pesticide DBCP in agriculture was banned around the world in 1977, when it was discovered that it caused sterility. However, the American multinational Dole Food Company, one of the world's biggest producers of bananas, continued using it on its plantations in Nicaragua until 1982. This powerful film by leading Swedish documentary maker and investigative journalist Fredrik Gertten records the court hearings that followed a lawsuit taken against the company by a group of Nicaraguan workers. The case saw top executives from multinationals called before a court in the US in connection with actions carried out in a developing country for the first time ever. Workers were also questioned in a humiliating way about their sexuality, and such scenes from the court alternate with archive footage of children running barefoot around plantations sprayed with poisonous pesticides. Meanwhile, the main figure in this touching documentary is Los Angeles lawyer Juan Dominguez, a likable defender of the rights of the weak who becomes very personally involved in his clients' crusade.



Marcus Vetter, Karin Steinberger / Germany / 2009 / 90 min.

With genetically modified crops, technological progress, global warming and demand for raw materials, the world at the start of the 20th century is changing dramatically, primarily to cater to the needs of the rich. The already miserable standard of living in poor countries continues to deteriorate in tandem with these changes. Whereas the biggest problem in the USA is obesity, just a few kilometres to the south in Haiti, there are people who are so poor that they have to sell their own children into slavery. Moreover, in Brazil, corrupt politicians look on as insatiable timber companies continue chopping down the Amazon rainforest, thereby contributing to global warming. This results in more frequent and deadly droughts in sub-Saharan Africa. In India, thousands of farmers eagerly embrace the dream of genetically modified rice. But when it doesn't rain, they don't even get the same harvest that they used to in the past. Hunger is a film that takes a detailed and shocking look at people and communities on three continents trapped by current international circumstances.


full version in German


Back to the Good Land: De volta a terra boa
Vincent Carelli / Brazil / 2008 / 21 min.

The arrival of the "white man" around the beginning of the 1970s threatened the existence of the Panará tribe of Indians in the Amazon rain forest, as the interlopers brought pollution that led to the natives suffering from new illnesses. In 1973 more whites "helped" them when they moved the tribe a long distance from their home to where the soil is less fertile. The Indians decide, therefore, to demand a return to a place the white man has illegally occupied in order to mine gold. This documentary shows how an ethnic group can fight for their rights and maintain their traditions, which are closely tied to the land in which they are rooted.



Martin Mareček / Czech Republic / 2009 / 90 min.

"You're deliberately going around Prague and complicating traffic, which is already complicated enough," says an angry policewoman in 2003 to participants in the first mass bike ride, while her colleagues arrest several youngsters with bicycles. Five years later, a peloton of 5,000 cyclists travels around Prague and the police ensure their safety. These bike rides are the most visible and popular form of the Auto*Mate initiative, which was co-founded by the director of this film. And just like the bike rides, this original documentary by Martin Mareček, which uses elements of animation and home video, became a phenomenon itself after a while. It depicts a civic initiative that fights against the predominance of cars over pedestrians in the Czech capital and which is committed to making it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to get around Prague. Auto*Mate is a playful and deeply personal film about people "who woke up one morning and decided to change their city."

trailer in Czech


Cars 2.0 - The Race for the Car of the Future: De race om de auto van de toekomst
Martijn Kieft / Netherlands / 2008 / 50 min.

There are 800 million automobiles in the world, the overwhelming majority of which run on petrol or diesel. There are at least two good reasons to find alternatives. The first is the fact oil supplies are disappearing. The second is the fact such transport is neither environmental nor economical. In this documentary director Martijn Kieft leads us through the world of the automobile industry. The sector remembers cars powered by electricity, though they disappeared because they could not meet the demands of a hectic civilisation for high speed. This film shows how individual car producers are approaching the possibility of making hybrid vehicles. There are many obstacles, from the oil lobby to political wrangling to the indifference of large companies for whom operating extensive vehicle parks does not represent a financial problem. At the same time, better times are on the horizon. The first hybrid and electric cars have appeared - all they need now is the green light.

full version


Biutiful Cauntri
Andrea D'Ambrosio, Esmeralda Calabria, Peppe Ruggiero / Italy / 2007 / 79 min.

In the poor Italian region of Campania local people, mainly farmers and herdsmen, are up against waste dealers and the heads of the Camorra, the regional mafia. With the silent assent of the local authorities the Camorra controls the local waste removal and liquidation business. For instance it transports to Campania dangerous toxic waste, including materials containing heavy metals, from factories in the rich north of Italy. In a short time these illegal secret dumps become environmental time bombs. Fifteen years ago the Italian prime minister appointed numerous government officials to conduct checks of waste sites, supervise waste water, liquidate illegal dumps and prevent their emergence. However, that government intervention has proven ineffective and links between the mafia, businessmen and politicians remain strong. The film's three directors demonstrate the lack of sufficient controls and the arrogance of official power. They speak to local residents who are powerless in the face of press silence and government participation in this lucrative business.

full version - in Italian


Joe Berlinger / USA / 2009 / 100 min.

Pablo Fajardo Mendoza and Luis Yanza from Ecuador won last year's Goldman Environmental Prize for their battle against Chevron's contamination of the Amazon rain forest with oil. People and animals in the region have died as a result of the pollution, which has caused cancer, leukaemia and skin diseases. Joe Berlinger's documentary is a gripping story that inspires strong emotions when we see two unequal forces face one another in court: rich concerns used to following tried and tested routes to success, and committed activists defending the rights of aggrieved local people. This film records the testimonies of sick men, women and children and documents the strategies of the activists (such as engaging the support of the new Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa, or contacting a foundation run by Sting and his wife). Most provocative, however, are the statements of environmental experts and lawyers working for Chevron, which contrast strongly with what the camera shows us. The documentary's lively tempo allows viewers to become involved with the case and decide for themselves where the truth lies.



Flow - for Love of Water
Irena Salina / USA / 2008 / 84 min.

A visually attractive documentary shot on every continent draws attention to the issue of water sources. Western civilisation regards sufficient drinking water as a given, while in other parts of the world a lack of this natural resource is a constant threat. Contaminated water kills more people every year than AIDS and war, with over 30,000 people a day dying of diseases carried by unclean water. Director Irena Salin shows in what way and at what price multinational corporations are tying to privatise water and profit from it. She also offers food for thought about what kind of water we drink and why we buy it and from whom, as well as looking for an answer to the apparently simple question of whether anybody can actually own water.

full version of the film


Here Comes the Sun
Rob van Hattum / Netherlands / 2008 / 52 min.

Solar power could hold the key to the future of humanity, because fossil fuel resources are not inexhaustible. Rob van Hattum's documentary shows how the exploitation and consumption of solar energy is undermined by damaging myths and prejudices. The director gives several successful examples of how solar rays have been harnessed and utilised in Europe, primarily in neighbouring Germany, where this energy source has proven its worth. He rebuts the argument that the sun can only be counted on as a source of power in countries with a constant supply of sunshine. Using 3D models, the film also lets us see important plans for the future use of the Sahara and deserts in the Near East, which could ideally supply energy to the whole of Europe with the aid of collectors for harnessing this resource. There are also more reserves on the surface of the world's oceans, which cover a wider area than dry land. This film is a convincing contribution to the debate about possible alternative sources of energy, which would also not damage the environment.

full version of the film


PetroApocalypse Now?
Andrew Evans / UK / 2008 / 48 min.

We have to learn to wrestle with the problem of oil before oil wrestles with us. That is the central motif of this documentary by Andrew Evans, which looks at mankind's current dependence on sources of oil. The director shows the conflict between the official pronouncements of oil magnates and independent prognoses warning that "black gold" will be exhausted far sooner. Reserves are diminishing, though paradoxically consumption is rising. The film presents the peak oil theory of M. King Hubbert, who makes long-term predictions on the consumption and exhaustion of oil supplies. The peak moment of oil extraction is behind us. Despite the fact we do not know the exact date that we will exhaust non-renewable oil resources, it is necessary to prepare for when it does become a thing of the past. This disquieting documentary shows through the testimonies of experts in the field of geology, economics, politics and industry that we ought to act now. It is not just a matter of reducing consumption and being sparing with resources, but above all of finding new, alternative methods of producing energy.



Poison Fire
Lars Johansson / Tanzania, Nigeria / 2008 / 28 min.

More than fifty years ago, Shell began drilling for oil in the Niger River delta in Nigeria. Since then, it has managed to completely devastate the local environment. Huge quantities of oil regularly escape into the river and kill all life there. Moreover, traditional crops can no longer be grown because of acid rain. Shell's arrogance towards the local population has gone so far that giant natural gas burners are often located right next to where they live. Consequently, many villagers suffer from serious health problems with no hope of receiving financial compensation that has been promised. This dynamically compiled documentary looks directly at the efforts of two local activists who are trying along with other people from endangered villages to get justice in national and international courts. Unfortunately, even a decision by Nigeria's Supreme Court in favour of the villagers does not mean that Shell will finally stop breaching human rights with its activities...

full version of the film


The Age of Stupid
Franny Armstrong / UK / 2008 / 89 min.

The year is 2055 and we find ourselves in the archive of humanity in Antarctica, where a sorrowful archivist goes through film materials from the start of the 21st century to show us the beginning of the end. It was a time when it was still possible to avert an unstoppable catastrophe. There were plenty of warnings: global warming and its concomitant natural disasters mirrored the irresponsible behaviour of people who only cared for profit regardless of the possible consequences of their actions. Not everyone thought the same way. A great many people could see into the future and they posted warnings and came up with proposals as to how one should treat the land in which we live with consideration. The way forward is to first become aware of one's own position in the endless chain of life, which should ultimately culminate in comprehensive political measures at the level of individual governments and government bodies. How should one be prudent with mineral wealth, how can emission limits be reduced, and how can waste and senseless overproduction be halted? This American documentary epic urgently and succinctly presents arguments for the need for Man to change his behaviour towards the Earth and it more or less summarises well known solutions for improving the current situation. It has been nominated for an Oscar in 2008.



The Nuclear Comeback
Justin Pemberton / New Zealand / 2007 / 75 min.

At a time when the global consumption of electrical energy is expected to double, mankind is beginning to return to the use of nuclear power. Its advocates say that in an era of extensive climate change its great advantage is that it does not produce carbon emissions. Its opponents, meanwhile, point to the fact that we still lack permanent disposal sites for huge quantities of nuclear waste; they say power stations are an ideal terrorist target and that the development of nuclear energy can lead to the production of nuclear weapons. Director Justin Pemberton sets out from New Zealand on a journey around the world, visiting Chernobyl, the UK's Calder Hall (one of the first nuclear stations to deliver electricity in commercial quantities), Australian uranium mines and nuclear waste dumps in the Baltic Sea. Along the way he hears arguments for and against nuclear power. This picture raises many questions and urges us to find a solution to the planet's energy and climate problems.



Upstream Battle
Ben Kempas / Germany / 2008 / 97 min.

To the indigenous inhabitants of northern California, who fish salmon in its silvery undulating waters, the Klamath River is a house of prayer. Their life, however, has been disrupted by the construction of four reservoirs in the river's upper reaches for hydroelectric power plants. This means fish cannot naturally migrate upstream where they regularly spawn. Moreover, the power plants pollute the river with dangerous toxins that are generated in the stagnant waters of the reservoirs. Consequently, members of several Native American tribes are fighting the company that operates the power plants. Their efforts have to be redoubled when a joint-stock company becomes the new owner of the plant, which makes it very hard to insist on corporate responsibility... Ben Kempas's documentary does not simply portray a quixotic battle waged by a few individuals against condescending businessmen, but also raises the issue of the plight of ethnic minorities in a remorseless capitalist system and in a society where people are still judged according to the colour of their skin. What rights are now enjoyed by the indigenous people who have a historical claim to the land? To what extent is their way of life incomprehensible or attractive to others?



OK! - And if you are really interested in such movies I have a choice for you - VISIT PRAGUE!!!

Do you want to visit Prague, Czech Republic. What about in march? Between 8th and 17th of March there is the best human rights documentary festival in Central Europe called ONE WORLD. You can see more than 100 new and unique documentary movies and during the day you can walk around the Prague. Airtickets are cheap so go on! Website of the festival is


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