Have a Documentary Party

Why not get together a few friends sometime over the next month and have a documentary party ? Some food, some drinks and a conversation about the issues covered in the film. Here are a few possible suggestions for you.


A film simply about dirt, that is also about the future of life. Narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis, Dirt! shows the importance and fragility of fertile soil to all life on earth. Yet fertile soil is something our societies tend to take for granted, and often abuse – sterilizing it with pesticides, chemically blasting it with nitrogen fertilizers and exposing it to erosion and crusting through industrial farming practices. Dirt! goes on to describe what actions we can take to begin to recover the situation, from better farming practices, to reducing soil sealing by hard-surfaces in our urban areas.



A film challenging the Christian church to respond to global poverty – arguing ‘we have everything we need, will we now do everything it takes ?’. The film 58 contrasts and connects the poverty of rural Ethiopia, the squalor of Nairobi’s slums, the violence of Brazil’s ganglands and inter-generational slavery in India with the affluent and consumerist, but often unhappy lives of the US and the UK. Describing itself as ‘not a call to slacktivism’, 58 is supported by several international aid organisations, advocating a range of personal responses including donations, campaigning and moving to a less-consuming lifestyle.



A film portrait of the 75 year old Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, as he tries to pass on what he’s learned over his life in a ‘last lecture’. The film follows his life from his origins in WWII, through his career in science, activism in the civil rights movement and campaigning work for environmental protection, climate change and sustainability. A mix of environmentalism and personal history, the film does a good job of capturing David’s essentially optimistic views of the future.


Photo by Vancouver Film School, via Flickr

RELATED ARTICLES – Movie Night, The World Through Your Screen

Movie Night

No Impact Man - by Colin Beavan

Colin Beavan and his family decided to take a twelve month break from their fairly typical middle class New York life, and try to make their environmental impact as low as they could for a year.

They got rid of the TV, turned off the electricity, stopped using escalators and lifts, no cars or trains, no processed or fast food, no meat or fish, no packaging, no waste and ultimately no toilet paper !

The film is funny and honest in discussing many of the conflicting motivations and contradictions – is the family just ‘playing’ at simple living, is it all just clever marketing for his book and film, surely no one will be persuaded by his extreme experiment, isn’t this just about projecting his own guilt onto the audience ?

In the end the real value of the film is that it makes us question our own way of life, and our underlying values. Will having organic milk in our coffee or getting a water butt for the garden really save the world, is are we going to have to make far more radical changes to our lives ? Living our lives the same way as Colin and his family do in this film isn’t really any kind of ‘solution’, but they are trying, and at the end have much more of a personal road map. [Amazon]

The End of Poverty ? - by Philippe Diaz

The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation was set-up in the US in the 1920s to raise awareness and promote actions towards issues of economic justice. In 2007 the Foundation decided to produce a documentary film about the underlying causes of global poverty, and the role played by Western economies.

The film’s producer Philippe Diaz presents the case that in order to maintain our standard of life, the rich world has systematically controlled and limited the development of the world’s poorer countries, with the policies of the World Bank and IMF effectively keeping billions in poverty.

Presenting the lives of the global poor on our screens, along with a series of shocking facts concerning life expectancy, deaths from starvation, the lack of clean water or even basic medical care, makes the film powerful and intensely challenging, especially when contrasting this with the lives of many in the rich world.

The film also argues strongly that unless we change the structures which create poverty, aid, no matter how well meaning, will ultimately be ineffective in lifting the world’s poor out of poverty. [Amazon]


The Vanishing of the Beesby Holly Mosher

The Vanishing of the Bees by Holly Mosher, describes the phenomena of honey bee colony collapse disorder - the dramatic rise is sudden, unexplained honey bee colony deaths around the planet since around 2006. A vital pollinator, honey bees are crucial for the effective production of a wide range of agricultural crops in many parts of the world.

The film follows two commercial bee keepers Hackenberg and Mendes, as they explore the causes of colony collapse disorder, travelling across the world in their attempt to find answers.

The film explains well that the sudden decline in bee numbers appears to result from a combination of factors and doesn’t claim to have definitive proof, but it especially points a finger at the widespread use of neo-nicitinoid pesticides, and the effects of monoculture styles of agriculture. [Amazon]

Photo by Espensorvick, via Flickr

RELATED ARTICLES – The World Through Your Screen