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Films For Action University: a Map for Navigating the Transition From Empire to Earth Community

This collection of 86 films is a map for navigating the 21st century. It is guided by the premise that we are facing a planetary emergency, and the primary role of schools today should be to prepare students to become active participants in designing the transition to a just and sustainable world.
By Films For Action / filmsforaction.org
Jun 2, 2017
Films For Action University: a Map for Navigating the Transition From Empire to Earth Community
Background illustration by Jessica Perlstein: dreamstreamart.com

Most colleges prepare students to read a map of the world that's both outdated and distorted. From economics to history to politics to ecology, modern schools are failing to prepare students for the future on a fundamental level. 

To put it simply, most colleges are still running on a set of assumptions that were developed during the 20th century. These assumptions are largely invisible to us - they are part of our subconscious "story of humanity" - but they ultimately constitute the heart of our societal crisis. The most simple of these is the premise that things will go on as they have before - that we can just get a job, do our part to grow the economy (progress!) and go on our merry way. They are not guiding students with the knowledge and wisdom that we are facing a planetary emergency, with a time crunch measured in decades.

Most colleges still follow the logic of neoclassical economics - a logic which ignores ecology and suffers from the illusion that human law is separate from natural law.

Nowhere is this belief better embodied than in the foolhardy notion that our economy can grow forever on a finite planet. But that is one of the implicit assumptions underlying a standard college education. They train students to become workers and consumers within an ever-growing economy. They teach marketers how to sell more products. They teach business students how to make a profit. They teach students lots of useful, fascinating and amazing things too, but ultimately the mission is to train students to integrate within the status quo. This might be fine if the status quo worked for all of us, but it never has and it's about to stop working for everybody if we don't soon make a change.

Whether things change in a really positive direction or a really bad one is up to what we do over the next 10-30 years. But either way, we can be certain - the status quo isn't going to last, and presently, most schools can't bring themselves to admit this. Not yet in a very serious sense - not yet in a way that would disrupt many of their corporate investments or sponsors. 

What is needed, urgently, are schools that acknowledge the 'fierce urgency of now.' They need to be preparing us to become collaborative designers of an ecologically sustainable, just and democratic society. They need to help all of us become creative and participatory agents for this great societal transition, away from empire and into the planetary era.

Education can no longer afford the pretense of neutrality when neutrality is leading society towards collapse - it must choose life. It must promote not just knowledge, but wisdom. Because that is what the world needs right now - it needs people with the wisdom to actively take part in designing a way of life for humans that is not just sustainable, but regenerative - a way of life that makes life good for life.

Ultimately that is what ecology teaches us - life creates conditions that are good for life, and our own society, as past human societies have done, must align with this inherent wisdom. Align with this wisdom, and life for us will be better than we've ever dreamed it could be, and it will good for all life - because we had the wisdom to put our creativity and imagination to those ends. If we continue to disregard this natural law - enriching some to the detriment of many, both human and environment, then we will perish with the many millions of other life forms that will go down with us. 

While many despair and believe all is already lost, we know that is just a mental fantasy, a trap of the mind. The future has yet to be written. The present moment is everything there is. We believe the story of humanity - while on the verge of calamity, has a great plot twist coming, and it is already being written by millions of people all over the planet. But we still need millions more, every young person, every older person - we need us all, helping to write this story.

We know cynicism is safe. Cynicism is easy. But we also know the courage of our ancestors lives in our bones, and we have the power to tap into that strength when our heart is willing to remain still and listen. 

With all this and more in mind, we have created this educational map for navigating the coming years. It's broken up into several core themes. We hope everyone, students and teachers especially, will find it useful. 

 

Economics


The Corporation (2003)
145 min · The Corporation is today's dominant institution, creating great wealth but also great harm. This 26 award-winning documentary examines the nature, evolution, impacts and future...
Money & Life (2013)
86 min · Money & Life is a passionate and inspirational essay-style documentary that asks a provocative question: can we see the economic crisis not as a disaster, but as a tremendous...
The Economics of Happiness (2011)
65 min · Economic globalization has led to a massive expansion in the scale and power of big business and banking. It has also worsened nearly every problem we face: fundamentalism and...
Real Estate 4 Ransom: Why Does Land Cost the Earth? (2012)
39 min · 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...
Plutocracy: Political Repression In The U.S.A. (2018)
440 min · Plutocracy is the first documentary to comprehensively examine early American history through the lens of class. A multi-part series by filmmaker Scott Noble, Part I focuses on...
Prout: Economic Democracy in Practice (2004)
30 min · Economics of Prout covers the basic economic principles of Prout, which offers a viable alternative to the materialistic, anti human philosophies of Capitalism and Communism.
Real Value (2013)
70 min · Award-winning filmmaker Jesse Borkowski delivers a refreshing meditation on how business can be used to create value beyond profit; connecting motivational stories from social...
Money As Debt (2006)
47 min · This simple, low-fi video acts as an Economics 101 class for those of us who don't really understand the American system of money. If you'd like to know more about why and...
Can We Do It Ourselves? (2015)
59 min · Within modern life exists a paradox: we celebrate democracy as a political system, but not as an economic system, even though our workplaces have a far greater impact on our...
Enough Is Enough (2014)
18 min · Enough Is Enough lays out a visionary but realistic alternative to the perpetual pursuit of economic growth-an economy where the goal is enough, not more. “Based on the...

 

 

Education


Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Education For a Sustainable Future (2012)
53 min · Education For a Sustainable Future presents information on how today's practices in schools are socially unsustainable. The documentary film critically analyses what is...
The War on Kids (2009)
95 min · THE WAR ON KIDS is a 95 minute documentary that shows how American public schools continue to become more dangerously authoritarian. In addition to failing in their mission to...
Class Dismissed (2004)
27 min · Class Dismissed provides a critical look at how U.S. history is taught in high school, at the myths that reduce the complexity of history into simple soundbites, and the...
Re-Learning the Land: a Story of Red Crow College (2015)
68 min · RE-LEARNING THE LAND is the story of a Blackfoot community in southern Alberta, Canada, and how they have re-taken control of their education system within Red Crow Community...
Re-Learning Hope: a Story of Unitierra (2016)
70 min · RE-LEARNING HOPE is the story of Unitierra, an autonomous university in Oaxaca, Mexico that is immersed in, and has emerged from, the social and indigenous movements of the...

 

 

Ecology


The Evolution of Ecological Consciousness (2013)
109 min · Permaculture designer Andrew Faust gives us an inspiring and heady narrative about the evolution of all life and human consciousness on Mother Earth.  For more info about...
Ecological Learning Through Direct Experience (2015)
45 min · This is a documentary about getting out into the natural world and learning from the wisdom of land and people - focusing on how rewilding our perception might be the catalyst...
United Natures: a United Nations of all Species (2013)
103 min · United Natures explores the Rights of Mother Earth, Environmental Philosophy, Wisdom, Spirituality and the potential for a Neo-indigenous future for humanity. Directed and...
The Superior Human? (2012)
73 min · "The Superior Human?" systematically challenges the common human belief that humans are superior to all other life forms, which is often used as an excuse for animal cruelty...
Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective (2015)
92 min · Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were...
The Nature of Cities (2010)
39 min · "The Nature Of Cities" follows the journey of Professor Timothy Beatley as he explores urban projects around the world, representing the new green movement that hopes to move...

 

 

Media Literacy


Rich Media, Poor Democracy (2003)
30 min · If a key indicator of the health of a democracy is the state of its journalism, the United States is in deep trouble. In Rich Media, Poor Democracy, Robert McChesney lays the...
The Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of News (1997)
59 min · Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky demolish one of the central tenets of our political culture, the idea of the "liberal media." Instead, utilizing a systematic model based on...
Class Dismissed: How TV Frames the Working Class (2005)
64 min · Based on the book by Pepi Leistyna, Class Dismissed navigates the steady stream of narrow working class representations from American television's beginnings to today's...
Still Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women (1987)
32 min · Author Jean Kilbourne demonstrates the role that advertising plays as propaganda against women. To that point, we learn of the predominate belittling and sexualization of...

 

 

Empire & Government


The Power Principle: Corporate Empire and the Rise of the National Security State (2012)
264 min · "A gripping, deeply informative account of the plunder, hypocrisy, and mass violence of plutocracy and empire; insightful, historically grounded and highly relevant to the...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min · OUT NOW! NEW IMPROVED 2018 DIRECTOR'S CUT VERSION: WATCH IT HERE. Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it...
Oliver Stone: The Untold History Of The United States (2012)
570 min · There is a classified America we were never meant to see. From Academy Award®-winning writer/director Oliver Stone, this ten-part documentary series looks back at human events...
The Canary Effect: Kill the Indian, Save the Man (2006)
63 min · From multi-award winning directors Robin Davey and  Yellow Thunder Woman, comes this 'Illuminating Documentary' (Time Out). Delving deeply into the often misunderstood and...
Human Resources: Social Engineering In The 20th Century (2010)
119 min · Human Resources explores the rise of mechanistic philosophy and the exploitation of human beings under modern hierarchical systems. Topics covered include behaviorism...
PsyWar: The Real Battlefield Is The Mind (2010)
99 min · This film explores the evolution of propaganda and public relations in the United States, with an emphasis on the "elitist theory of democracy" and the relationship between...
The New Rulers of the World (2001)
52 min · 'The New Rulers Of The World analyzes the new global economy and reveals that the divisions between the rich and poor have never been greater - two thirds of the world's...
Cointelpro 101 (2010)
56 min · COINTELPRO may not be a well-understood acronym but its meaning and continuing impact are absolutely central to understanding the government’s wars and repression against...

 

 

War


War Made Easy (2007)
70 min · War Made Easy reaches into the Orwellian memory hole to expose a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after...
The War You Don't See (2010)
98 min · A powerful and timely investigation into the media’s role in war, tracing the history of embedded and independent reporting from the carnage of World War One to the destruction...
What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy (2000)
118 min · This is a powerful 10-part compilation that (in important ways) pulls aside the veil of Official myths and Lies about "freedom", "democracy", Human Rights, etc., being the...
Peace, Propaganda And The Promised Land (2004)
79 min · Provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, zeroing in on how structural distortions in U.S. coverage have...
War By Other Means (1992)
52 min · John Pilger travels to many third world countries to investigate the devastating results of loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). This film shows...

 

 

Drug Prohibition and Prisons


Law Enforcement Opposed to the War on Drugs (2006)
54 min · Cops and former cops who have put in decades fighting the war on drugs speak out against prohibition.
The House I Live In
108 min · As America remains embroiled in conflict overseas, a less visible war is taking place at home, costing countless lives, destroying families, and inflicting untold damage on...

 

 

Community


Within Reach (2013)
87 min · Within Reach explores one couple's pedal-powered search for a place to call home. Mandy and Ryan gave up their jobs, cars, and traditional houses to 'bike-pack' 6500 miles...
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006)
52 min · When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate. This...
The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community
51 min · David Korten’s inspiring and extensively-illustrated presentation of his new book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. David says we are at a defining moment in...

 

 

Food


Dirt! The Movie (2009)
80 min · DIRT! The Movie takes you inside the wonders of the soil. It tells the story of Earth's most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility--from its miraculous beginning to...
DIVE! Living Off America's Waste (2009)
53 min · Inspired by a curiosity about our country's careless habit of sending food straight to landfills, the multi award-winning documentary DIVE! follows filmmaker Jeremy Seifert and...
Origins (2014)
101 min · This is a movie about how we have left the natural connection to the planet. The movie investigates how this has happened, the incredible amounts of pollutants that we are...
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (2015)
115 min · Join best-selling author Michael Pollan (Food Rules, The Botany of Desire) on a fascinating journey to answer the question: What should I eat to be healthy? Cutting through...
Go Organic! (2007)
115 min · This series of films provide a refreshing education on the current state of agriculture, pointing out positive sustainable and organic practices that you can take part in. The...

 

 

Democracy & Politics


Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas (2008)
95 min · From Venezuela's Communal Councils, to Brazil's Participatory Budgeting; from Constitutional Assemblies to grassroots movements, recuperated factories to cooperatives across...
Lifting the Veil:  Obama and the Failure of Capitalist Democracy (2011)
114 min · This film explores the historical role of the Democratic Party as the "graveyard of social movements", the massive influence of corporate finance in elections, the absurd...
The Evilness of Power (2008)
92 min · THE EVILNESS OF POWER examines the ways in which power and hierarchy affect individuals, society, and the world at large. It's possibly the best film on the subject ever made. ...
We the People 2.0
91 min · We the People is a visual essay about the loss of democracy in the United States. The film utillizes both original footage as well as found footage to describe a profound...
Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Politics (2009)
87 min · The definitive documentary explaining the influence of money on politics by Jonathan Shockley. If you like it, consider buying the high quality DVD or donating a few $ at...

 

 

Culture


Human (2015)
382 min · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
Race: The Power of An Illusion (2003)
180 min · The division of the world's peoples into distinct groups - "red," "black," "white" or "yellow" peoples - has became so deeply embedded in our psyches, so widely accepted, many...

 

 

Consumerism


The Century of the Self (2002)
230 min · The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in...
Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood (2008)
66 min · Consuming Kids throws desperately needed light on the practices of a relentless multi-billion dollar marketing machine that now sells kids and their parents everything from...
Affluenza (1997)
56 min · AFFLUENZA is a groundbreaking film that diagnoses a serious social disease - caused by consumerism, commercialism and rampant materialism - that is having a devastating impact...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...

 

 

The Big Picture


Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview (2013)
65 min · Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview is a documentary exploring the depths of the current human condition and the emergence of a worldview that is recreating our world...
The Crisis of Civilization (2011)
87 min · A dark comedy remix mash-up bonanza about the end of industrial civilization. featuring clowns, car crashes, explosions, super heroes, and xylophones and much, much more ...
Fall and Winter (2013)
102 min · This stunning film takes you on a hypnotic journey, reaching to the past to understand the origins of the catastrophic environmental transitions we now face. Over two years...
Zeitgeist: Moving Forward (2011)
162 min · A feature length documentary by Peter Joseph that presents the case for a needed transition out of the current socioeconomic monetary paradigm which governs the entire world...
The Choice Is Ours (2016)
59 min · This film series explores many aspects of our society. To rethink what is possible in our world, we need to consider what kind of world we want to live in. Although we refer to...
Paradise or Oblivion (2012)
48 min · 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...

 

 

Wisdom


A New Story for Humanity (2016)
102 min · A New Story For Humanity presents a beautifully and sensitively woven tapestry of the rich diversity that is the human family. Featuring interviews on the essential topics of...
The Global Brain: Peter Russell (1983)
35 min · Peter Russell’s award-winning video, based on a live audio-visual presentation in 1983. He explores the idea that the Earth is an integrated, self-regulating living organism...
Awakening the Dreamer: Changing the Dream (2011)
90 min · Wake up to your own role in creating a new future. This new perspective of the current state of our planet features top scientific, indigenous and activist minds from around...
A Quest For Meaning (2017)
2 min · A Quest for Meaning is an inspiring journey that connects personal growth and social change. It tells the story of two friends, Marc and Nathanael, who leave everything behind...
PLANETARY  (2015)
81 min · We are in the midst of a global crisis of perspective. We have forgotten the undeniable truth that everything is connected. PLANETARY is a provocative and breathtaking wakeup...

 

 

Designing The Future


A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity (2016)
79 min · A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity is a feature-length documentary that follows a community in Australia who came together to explore and demonstrate a simpler way to live in...
Occupy Love (2013)
85 min · Join acclaimed director Velcrow Ripper on a journey deep inside the global revolution of the heart that is erupting around the planet. Humanity is waking up to the fact that...
In Transition 2.0: A Story of Resilience & Hope in Extraordinary Times (2012)
66 min · This film is an inspirational immersion in the Transition movement, gathering stories from around the world of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. There are stories of...
Tomorrow: Take Concrete Steps To A Sustainable Future
120 min · “Without question, this is absolutely the best and most creative film on the future of humanity and the environment”. — Paul Hawken TODAY, we sometimes feel powerless in front...
Singapore: Biophilic City (2012)
44 min · A whirlwind week in Singapore exploring the amazing story of how Singapore came to be one of the most 'biophilic' cities of the world, on the cutting edge of ecocity design and...
First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological Architecture (2010)
90 min · FIRST EARTH is a documentary about the movement towards a massive paradigm shift for shelter -- building healthy houses in the old ways, out of the very earth itself, and...
Freedom Ahead (2012)
60 min · Never before in known history have so many people relied on so few for the basic essentials of life. In our present-day democracies, freedom is slowly being commodified. We...
Seeds of Permaculture: If It's Beautiful, It's Better (2013)
88 min · An interactive film about permaculture in the tropics, with education and inspiration as the main threads running through this hour-and-a-half-documentary. We remind you...
Together: How Cooperatives Show Resilience to the Crisis (2012)
39 min · It’s a fact. In Europe, 1.5 million workers co-own their enterprises. They are called worker cooperatives, social cooperatives or participative enterprises. The documentary...
Creating Prosperous Communities: Examples of Small-Scale Cooperatives in Maleny (2002)
33 min · A video about the many cooperatives in Maleny, Australia, and the beneficial effects they have on the local community. It includes interviews with people from the Maleny...
Not Business As Usual (2014)
61 min · Not Business As Usual is a provocative look at capitalism and its unintended price of success. The film tracks the changing landscape of business with the rising tide of...
A Passion For Sustainability (2008)
56 min · Envision a society where economic opportunity, social justice and sustainable culture all spring from environmental stewardship. Imagine a world where nurturing the health of...
Waste = Food (2007)
49 min · Man is the only creature that produces landfills. Natural resources are being depleted on a rapid scale while production and consumption are rising in na­tions like China and...
Words From The Edge (2013)
50 min · Words From The Edge is a film about the unprecedented transition that we are undergoing from a culture of industrial growth and inequality to what must inevitably be more...
2012: Time For Change (2010)
85 min · "2012: Time for Change" presents an optimistic alternative to apocalyptic doom and gloom. Directed by Emmy Award nominee João Amorim, the film follows j

 

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Films For Action University is currently comprised of 86 films. There are numerous films we would really like to add to it, but currently, they aren't available to watch online, either for free or to rent. As that changes, we'll be updating this resource over time. 

If you like it, please feel free to start sharing it widely.

Over the years, we have heard so many wonderful stories about people telling their friends about this site, or about teachers telling their students, and how much they love it after spending some time watching a few films.

Now that there are thousands of films on the site, the very best gems have become buried all across our library, so we realized we needed a more guided way to dive in. Films For Action University aims to be this entry point. It is our attempt to curate the kind of crash-course curriculum on the state of the world we wish we had all got growing up, but didn't. A resource gathered after watching over 800 films over the last 10 years. 

We hope you find it of value. 

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