Rated (G)reen: the Best Environmental, Food & Health Movies

It’s Oscar time and we are all trying to catch that last movie everyone has been talking about. Whether at the water-cooler at work, on Twitter, Facebook or even across the dinner table, we all love to talk about movies. Of the dozens of nominees this year, it appears that only two have green/public health themes — WALL.E and the documentary The Garden.  But over the past few years there have been plenty of films that are truly worth taking a look at. 

The following are a list of films my husband and I have watched over the past year or so (love Netflix!) that I think you should watch.  They are listed in no particular order, just put them in your queue and enjoy.  Movies are rated from 1-3 green thumbs (1 is a watch, 2 should watch, 3 MUST watch.)

Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard
Throughout this 20-minute online film, activist Annie Leonard, the film’s narrator and an expert on the materials economy, examines the social, environmental and global costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. The “Story of Stuff” examines how economic policies of the post-World War II era ushered in notions of consumerism — and how those notions are still driving much of the U.S. and global economies today. It is definitely worth watching and forwarding to all your friends.

Flow The Film
What happens when you mix water with big business? Nothing good.  Flow shows when you combine the public health and private interest you get “pollution, scarcity, human suffering and corporate profit.” Water is a $400 billion dollar global industry; the third largest behind electricity and oil. There are estimates that from five hundred thousand to seven million people get sick per year from drinking tap water. So you want to be freaked out?  You want to have horrible dreams? This is the movie for you. Moving from the US to India, from small farms to “industrial” spring water, Flow will get you to look at your tap at lot differently, and will hopefully get you to make more conscious decisions about how you use water.  This movie was one of the things that got me to have the water in my home tested.

Two Angry Moms
Do you have kids in school? Do you pack a lunch for them every single day? If not, they probably are buying what the school is serving. If so, you probably want to know what your kids are eating in school. So did Amy Kalafa and Susan Rubin. These moms were fed up that their children were eating highly-processed food filled with additives and preservatives at school. Two Angry Moms, the film and the movement, address an issue of great concern to parents across the country. What is happening to the health of our children and how does school food factor in? The movie not only shows what is wrong with school food, it offers strategies for overcoming roadblocks and getting real food into school cafeterias. Kalafa and Rubin provide solutions to the problem that include the connection between the cafeteria and the classroom. The movie explores the roles the Federal government, corporate interests, school administration and parents play in feeding our school kids.  For additional watching head over to TED.ORG and watch Anne Cooper’s talk on School Food.

King Corn
If you’re anything like me, you consider Michael Pollan something of a food guru. I consider The Omnivores Dilemma to be the bible of the sustainable food movement. A core theme of Pollan’s book is the impact industrial corn plays across the entirety of the US, and now global society. For those of you are interested in an introductory course on the corn, you must see this documentary by two college friends, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis. A great visual into to corn industry and the American food system, “King Corn” should become required viewing for all schools across the country to teach children to eat better. For a more in-depth review of this movie read my post titled King Corn: We Are What We Eat.

Greening of Southie
Want to know what goes into making a building green and what can go wrong? Well so did the filmmakers of King Corn.  Set in South Boston, The Greening of Southie is about Boston’s first residential green building, and the skeptical workers who are asked to build it. From wheatboard cabinetry to recycled steel, bamboo flooring to dual-flush toilets, The Macallen Building is something different––a leader in the emerging field of environmentally friendly design. But Boston’s steel-toed union workers aren’t sure they like it. And when things on the building start to go wrong, the young developer has to keep the project from unraveling.  An interesting look on the contrast between the ever changing green movement and an insular community resistant to change.

Killer At Large
Killer at Large examines the startling details of the American obesity epidemic and why this issue has crossed from a public health crisis to a national security issue. The film starts with a clip from a press conference with Surgeon General Richard Carmona who when asked what is the most pressing issue Americans face today he planing states, “Obesity. Because obesity is a terror within. It is destroying our society from within and unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist event you can point out. Where will our soldiers, sailors, and airmen come from? Where will our police and firemen come from if the youngsters today are on a trajectory that says they will be obese?” The movie provides a perspective on one of the most pressing health issues of our time and serves as a call to arms to take a stand and reverse this deadly trend – which is poised to cripple our nation’s health care system and bankrupt our economy within the next 20 years. Killer at Large will be available on DVD on March 31st, 2009.

The Real Dirt on Farmer John
If you are still debating if you should join a CSA then you must watch the documentary about John Peterson, a.k.a Farmer John, a midwest farmer whose life parallels the history of American farming in the late 20th century.  Peterson came from a family of farmers who struggled, like most farmers, to make ends meet. Peterson’s father died when he was teenager, which forced him to be in charge of the farm. By the 1980’s, when most farmers were trouble, so was Peterson, who had to sell off most of his farm to make ends meet. Destitute and depressed, Peterson took time away from farming and returned in the ’90s. Deciding to change his farm from a mono-culture, chemically- dependent farm, to an organic farm and connect himself to the land, Peterson turned his farm into the one of the largest CSAs in the country.  Peterson is a truly unique individual and is interesting to watch.  To be honest, the movie is a bit slow, but is worth the time and effort to get through.

Who Killed the Electric Car?
Ok, now for the movie that will OUTRAGE YOU. This is one movie that will get you pissed off and probably make you call your Congressperson, Senator or whoever you want to rant to. Remember way back (last Summer) when gas was $4 a gallon and looked to keep going up? When we all heard about how “the Electric Car was coming”? Ford, Toyota, and GM said that a production-ready electric car was only 5 or 10 years away. Well guess what? We already had a true electric car. Twelve years ago GM – the company that just got tens of billions of bailout money, launched the EV1, the world’s first true production plug-in electric car. This film looks at the birth and untimely death of the EV1. This wonderful car required no petrochemical-based fuel and could be plugged in for recharging at home and at a number of so-called battery parks. The car was loved by just about everyone who owned it, including a number of celebrities. Who killed it? Watch this a prepare to get insanely mad.

Super Size Me
This is far and away one of the most well known of the food/green movies out there. If you have not seen this 30-day eating journey of Morgan Spurlock it is a must. Spurlock’s month long McDonald’s food (gross) fest explores the fast food industry’s influence on the American consumer and how public health is put aside for corporate wealth. It is just another look at the obesity epidemic and how our industrial food industry is killing Americans. Prepare to throw up in your mouth a little watching this movie. But also prepare to never, ever look at fast food the same way again.

Other movies which I have not seen yet but are on my list are Sustainable Table: What’s on Your Plate? (2007), Food, Inc. (2008), Bad Seed: The Truth About Our Food (2006), The World According To Monsanto (2008), and The Future of Food (2004).

All the above mentioned movies can be rented on Netflix or purchased on the film’s website. Check them out and let me know what you think. Also, if you are interested purchasing Two Angry Moms to screen at your child’s school, the library or for a large group, Amy Kalafa (one angry mom) has offered a $10 discount for orders over $50. Use coupon code DD010 at check out.

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