The Best Social Change Documentaries of 2012
By Tim Hjersted /

2012 was another big year for break-out films in the social change genre. With most of the bases covered for all of the major problems we're facing, more and more films this year focused on the solutions side of the equation, giving a voice to the uplifting stories of people working to realize their dreams of a thriving, sustainable world.

For the films that focused on the problems-side, it's no longer enough to advance the well-trodden ideas of the past. It's a time of creative destruction, where all of our assumptions about the world are no longer taken for granted, giving air to fresh, radical new perspectives and ideas.

While many are quick to still focus on the growing and troubling consolidation of the world's major powers, it's critical to not lose sight of the greater narrative unfolding, which resembles the birthing pains of an old order toppling, fighting to hold onto the last vestiges of its power as a new global consciousness shifts us into the next era.

The Mayan 2012 prophesy got it right. The world as we've known it is coming to an end. But not in an apocalyptic shower of fire and doom as many misinterpreted. The end of 2012 marks a symbolic shift in the evolution of humankind - from empire to earth community, from an endless growth economy to a stable-state economy, from an era of rulers and kings to an era of direct democracy and decentralized, egalitarian power relationships. From power over, to power with.

You don't need a telescope or a calendar to see the real-time paradigm shift that is on-going now. The mainstream media may not be talking about it - they, too, like the political elites whose interests they favor, still continue to promote the status quo narratives of the past, much like the dinosaurs grazing in the forests as the comet of the next world shadows overhead.

Tapping into independent media and the independent films below, though, and it's clear that we're living during the beginnings of what many believe is the greatest renaissance of world systems we've ever known.

Here then, is Films For Action's top 20 social change inspiring documentaries of 2012, most of which have been generously made available to watch free online by the film-makers. Just click the titles and enjoy.

After that, if you're feeling pumped up by these films and want to channel that energy into something positive, check out our guide to hosting public film screenings, and consider using our action template as a spring-board to launch a community initiative in your home town.

Punishment: A Failed Social Experiment provides a detailed, critical analysis of the current legal and justice system generally in operation across the planet whilst also providing potential solutions which work on preventing crime and creating a much more socially sustainable society.
97% owned present serious research and verifiable evidence on our economic and financial system. This is the first documentary to tackle this issue from a UK-perspective and explains the inner workings of Central Banks and the Money creation process.
Seeds of Freedom charts the story of seed from its roots at the heart of traditional, diversity rich farming systems across the world, to being transformed into a powerful commodity, used to monopolise the global food system.
The school has been around for more than 200 years and is still considered the main form of access to education. Today, the school and education are concepts widely discussed in academia, public policy, educational institutions, media and civil society spaces. Since its inception, the school has been characterized by structures and practices that are now considered largely obsolete and outdated.
“We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists” is a documentary that takes us inside the world of Anonymous, the radical “hacktivist” collective that has redefined civil disobedience for the digital age.
In the spring of 2005, Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, found himself in a dream riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. Just before he awoke, he arrived at a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time, Jim knew nothing of the largest mass execution in United States history, ordered by Abraham Lincoln
The OFFICIAL TRAILER for 2012 Sundance Award-Winning film "Chasing Ice," opening in theaters starting November 2012. In the spring of 2005, National Geographic photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth's changing climate.
Everyone is talking about the Mayan Prophecies of 2012. But who is listening to the Maya?This groundbreaking film brings us the voices of the Mayan people as they share their perspectives on the prophecies of their ancestors and their fight to defend Mother Earth and their culture from destruction. 2012 The Mayan Word is both a message of hope and a call to action.
12. Paradise or Oblivion (2012)

A free online documentary created by The Venus Project, which examines the root causes of the systemic value disorders and detrimental symptoms caused by our current established system.

Education For a Sustainable Future presents information on how today's practices in schools are socially unsustainable. The documentary film critically analyzes what is considered socially relevant in a new education system which brings out the most potential in all of humanity whilst also detailing specific educational methods from a wide range of sources
The Superior human? is the first documentary to systematically challenge the common human belief that humans are superior to other life forms. The documentary reveals the absurdity of this belief while exploding human bias.
Occupied Cascadia is a documentary film both journalistic and expressionistic. Exploring the emerging understanding of bioregionalism within the lands and waters of the Northeast Pacific Rim, the filmmakers interweave intimate landscape portraits with human voices both ideological and indigenous.
"A gripping, deeply informative account of the plunder, hypocrisy, and mass violence of plutocracy and empire; insightful, historically grounded and highly relevant to the events of today." - Michael Parenti
Edible City, a 60 minute documentary film, tells the stories of the pioneers who are digging their hands into the dirt, working to transform their communities and do something truly revolutionary: grow local Good Food Systems that are socially just, environmentally sound, economically viable and resilient to climate change and market collapse.
America is in the grip of a societal economic panic. Lawmakers cry “We’re Broke!” as they slash budgets, lay off schoolteachers, police, and firefighters, crumbling our country’s social fabric and leaving many Americans.
An investigation into BP's 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. “The film’s scope is staggering, including its detailed outlining of BP’s origins and fingerprints across decades of unrest in Iran. By doing smart, covert reporting that shames our news media, by interviewing uncensored journalists, by speaking with locals whose health has been destroyed,
In Transition 2.0 is an inspirational immersion in the Transition movement, gathering stories from around the world of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. You’ll hear about communities printing their own money, growing food everywhere, localising their economies and setting up community power stations
In celebration and exploration of all things green, two bicyclists are on a year-long journey around the United States to share what they've learned about sustainable communities. They’ve traveled more than 6,000 miles to visit and film 100 sustainable communities of all types, working to capture in film the abundance of community-oriented solutions out there that are already working.
REAL ESTATE 4 RAN$OM outlines a genuine alternative to the global property speculation that forced so many into debt. Doubling the pressure, the tax game has become just that, with tax havens a favored option for the wealthy. The result - we are taxing the wrong things, causing more problems whilst bankrupting once proud economies.
From "Sabine": Here is the formal statement I gave to Federal Police on 16 June 2012: On a trip to visit family in Seoul in April, I was approached by a man and a woman who claimed to be North Korean defectors. They presented me with a DVD that recently came into their possession and asked me to translate it.


Finally, this list wouldn't be complete without mentioning our favorite film about 2012. We think this film perfectly captures the essence and spirit of the global (r)evolution, featuring an amazingly inspiring section in the last half dedicated to the brightest solutions and big ideas that are catalyzing the transition from this paradigm to the next.

"2012: Time for Change" presents an optimistic alternative to apocalyptic doom and gloom. Directed by Emmy Award nominee João Amorim, the film follows journalist Daniel Pinchbeck, author of the bestselling 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, on a quest for a new paradigm that integrates the archaic wisdom of tribal cultures with the scientific method.

Notable Mentions:

For one eventful year, filmmaker Emily James gains unprecedented access to document the work of a group of environmental activists engaged in nonviolent direct-action campaigns across England. Embedded in the activists' clandestine activities, she captures the triumph, setbacks, secret planning sessions, and feverish passion of a group of remarkable characters.

These were Films For Action's top picks for 2012. What were yours? (Must have been released in 2012) Share your recommendations in the comments below and I'll catalog them here.

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