Carolyn’s Top Ten Films

Here is our current list of great eco-documentaries. Prepared by Carolyn M. Scott, Executive Director of Reel Community Action.

1. The Real Dirt on Farmer John by Taggart Siegel
This film is one of my favorite eco-docs! Taggart Siegel beganfilming Farmer John 25 years ago, back in the 60s, when he was a counter-culture artist hanging out on his farm with his hippie artist friends. John Peterson is not your typical farmer, he wears feather boas while plowing the fields d
resses up as a bee as he sings songs with his sweetie. The film takes you on John’s journey through his own serious depression, the crisis with small farms in America and the resurrection of John’s farm as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It has won more “best documentary film” awards than any doc in the world. It’s heartwarming, heroic, and very funny movie.

2. Upstream Battle by Ben Kempis
I just saw this film at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival 2009. Wild & Scenic is the biggest and the best environmental festival on the west coast. Upstream Battle is an intimate story of a Native American community on the Klamath River who are fighting to save their fish (the last salmon that make it through a series of damns) 
against an energy corporation. Their struggle may trigger the largest dam removal project in history. It’s a great film.

3. The Future of Food by Deborah Koons Garcia
This film is a must see. If you live in the US and eat food, you need to know the insane and dangerous stuff Monsanto is doing to our food. If you are not familiar with GMOs (genetically modified organisms) this film will tell you the whole twisted story. Soy, corn and canola are the main crops being manipulated by the “White Coats.” Deborah Garcia (widow of Jerry Garcia) shows what is going on in the Corporate agriculture world. This film is perfection– compelling, powerful–and was for me a life-changing film.

4. Everything’s Cool by Daniel B.Gold and Judith Helmand
Everything’s Cool is an upbeat entertaining documentary that follows leaders in the climate change movement who are working against the clock to save the planet from climate catastrophe. Daniel B. Gold and Judith Helfand, Toxic Comedy filmmakers, make good use of humor in their films–it’s a fantastic delivery device for challenging information. The film shows the most dangerous chasm ever to emerge between scientific understanding and political action around Global Warming. You get intimate, up-close looks into the lives of folks like Ross Gelbspan and Bill McKibben and their different point of views about America’s struggle to deal with this mother of all issues.

5. Blue Vinyl: The World’s First Toxic Comedy by Daniel B. Gold, Judith Helmand
This film won at Sundance Film Festival and is one of the most entertaining and informative eco-docs I have ever seen. The story is cleverly woven around Judith trying to get her parents to take the vinyl siding off her their house. Judith, who is like Michael Moore in a woman’s body, goes to great lengths to get her parents to understand everything you every wanted to know about Vinyl Chloride and its deadly impact on the world. It’s an absolutely humorous, adventurous and intimate story. Blue Vinyl is one of my all time favorite documentary movies.

6. Who Killed the Electric Car? by Chris Paine
I just love this film. It begins with a solemn funeral…for a car. Chris Paine’s lively and suspense-driven documentary is fast-paced, and a real-life mystery drama. As narrator Martin Sheen notes, “They were quiet and fast, produced no exhaust and ran without gasoline..why should we be haunted by the ghost of the electric car?” Paine proceeds to show how this unique vehicle came into being and why General Motors ended up reclaiming its once-prized masterpiece and secretly shredding them. It’s hard to believe that a car could be the main character in a film and keep you on the edge of your seat trying to figure out who committed the murder. One of my favorite documentaries!

7. The Forest for the Trees by Bernadine Mellis
Filmmaker Bernadine Mellis follows her father, a famed civil rights attorney, Dennis Cunningham who took on the court case of Judi Bari, Earth First! who was bombed in her car and then charged by the FBI for the bombing. After 12 years, Judi Bari v. the FBI finally gets a court date. Knowing this is one of her father’s most important cases, Mellis is there at strategy meetings, at breakfast, driving to and from the court, documenting her morally driven, very tired dad. A very important and compelling documentary.

8. Saviors of the Forest by Terry Schwartz, Tod Darling
Tired of filming TV commercials, two well-intentioned Los Angeles “camera guys” decide to do their part for the environment by exposing the villains responsible for destroying the rainforests. It’s real and it’s wonderful–a great example of the power of good storytelling.

9. Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action by Roberta Grossman
The film tells the inspiring stories of four Native Americans battling through issues related to their land and sovereignty. It’s a powerful documentary and gives you an intimate look into the lives of these activists who are trying to save their homes and land from corporate interests.

10. Texas Gold by Carolyn Scott
I am humbly including my own film in this list! TEXAS GOLD profiles the brave and ballsy actions that have earned Diane Wilson the title of “unreasonable woman”: waging multiple hunger strikes, starting up a business bottling toxic water taken from a superfund site – chaining herself to a DOW chemical tower. Diane believes that “…putting your life at risk is where change happens.”

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