Aug 12, 2023

50 Paradigm-Shifting Documentaries for a Wise Earth

By Films For Action / filmsforaction.org
50 Paradigm-Shifting Documentaries for a Wise Earth

The human journey is at a crossroads. Authoritarianism is on the rise, the biosphere is destabilizing, and the capitalist global order is driving us towards the cliff with its head stuck in quarterly profit reports. From everything we've learned about climate feedback loops, it seems that what we do in the next 10 years will determine the next 10,000...

No pressure!

So what are we going to do? From the present world of empire and corporate rule, we see two distinct paths:

The ideal path takes us to Earth Community, a civilization based on indigenous and ecological wisdom, deep participatory democracy from the local to international levels, and a foundational philosophy that could potentially allow all individuals and peaceful cultures of the world to co-exist and thrive. In this timeline, the climate is stabilized, biodiversity loss is halted, social inequality is reduced by 90%, living standards are higher for everyone with all the basics guaranteed, and life is basically great for thousands of generations.

The other path, the one that's competing with the first, is leading us towards the biosphere and civilization collapsing thanks to too many converging systemic failures of infinite-growth capitalism and a cultural story that pits humans at war with the Earth and each other.  If you're reading this you're probably nodding your head going, "Yep, let's try to avoid that one shall we?"

The problem is, right at the apex of all these converging crises, we're also facing a crisis of distraction, diversion, and information overload, which threatens our focus, attention spans, and basic capacity to think our way out of this mess. To solve any of our pressing problems first requires understanding the world as it actually is, separating truth from fiction, and stealing back our attention from the merchants of distraction. This means developing high media literacy skills and cultivating what Carl Sagan called our "Baloney Detection Kit."

To this end, documentaries have a special power, inspiring us to shake off our very understandable apathy to seek tangible ways we can contribute to the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

It's true: documentaries can also be used to deceive and distract, but the best ones, which have been curated by some process of our collective intelligence, have an incredible power to create wiser, engaged citizens and thus a wiser Earth. 

So, with that spirit in mind, below you'll find the links to watch 50 documentaries that aim to inspire humanity to follow the first path. Share them with everyone you know. The world needs us.

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One quick thing to note: 40 of them can be watched for just $5, and support both Films For Action and the filmmakers in the process. Our Patron Film collection, which now has 57 films, is something we've been slowly building for the last five years and we're proud of the collective wisdom and knowledge it now has to offer.

The first ten films can be watched for free, so they're a great place to dive in. 

Oh, and if you have a smart TV, you can cast these films to your TV with Web Video Caster (no affiliation), an app for Android and iOS that turns your phone into a remote to stream videos from the web.

 

TAWAI: A Voice From the Forest
100 min · Tawai is a word the nomadic hunter-gatherers of Borneo use to describe the connection they feel to their forest home. In this dreamy, philosophical and sociological look at life, Bruce Parry (of the BBC's Tribe, Amazon & Arctic) embarks...
The Economics of Happiness
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 ethnic conflict; climate chaos and species extinction...
Schooling the World
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 Evolution of Ecological Consciousness | Andrew Faust
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. 
Fall and Winter
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, director Matt Anderson traveled 16,000 miles to document...
InterReflections: A Story about The Greatest Revolution of Our Time
165 min · InterReflections is an experimental, mixed genre narrative feature film by Peter Joseph, adapted from his book The New Human Rights Movement. The ambitious, nearly 3 hour work challenges not only contemporary thinking about society, it...
Beware Of Images
160 min · From cave paintings to virtual reality, Beware of Images embarks on a fascinating journey through the history of mediated representation. This is the history of media you will never find on TV.
Wetheuncivilised, A Life Story
101 min · “Once in a while a film comes along that has profound impact – this is a delicious taste of what can be.” - Polly Higgins 
A New Story for Humanity: Change the Story, Change the World
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 our time: from cosmology to ecology, from ancient wisdom to...
Living the Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future
85 min · Living the Change explores solutions to the global crises we face today – solutions any one of us can be part of – through the inspiring stories of people pioneering change in their own lives and in their communities in order to...
A Quest For Meaning
87 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 to go question the workings of the world and look for...
Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective
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 beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the...
Shift Change: True Stories of Dignified Jobs in Democratic Workplaces
70 min · At a time when many are disillusioned with big banks and big business, and growing inequity in our country, employee ownership offers a real solution for workers and communities. SHIFT CHANGE visits thriving cooperative businesses in...
Invisible Hand: Who Will Speak For Nature?
84 min · From Executive Producer Mark Ruffalo comes the world’s first documentary film on the Rights of Nature Movement, a “Paradigm Shifting” story where the 'Rights of Nature' has become 'capitalism’s one true opponent.'
The Third Harmony: Nonviolence and the New Story of Human Nature
44 min · The Third Harmony tells the story of nonviolence, humanity’s greatest (and most overlooked) resource. "I am exhilarated and grateful to the filmmakers for bringing forth such a fine gift for the future of life on Earth. Hurray! and...
Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life
60 min · Biophilic Design is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn. We need nature in a deep and fundamental fashion, but we have often designed our cities and suburbs in ways that both degrade the environment...
The Nature of Cities
40 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 our urban environments beyond sustainability to a regenerative...
The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?
61 min · Opening with a powerful ‘deep time’ perspective, from the beginning of the Earth to our present moment, BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's new film recognises the fundamental unsustainability of today’s society and dares to ask...
The Wisdom To Survive
55 min · Climate change is here. Will we have the wisdom to survive? The film features thought leaders and activists in the realms of science, economics, and spirituality. The focus: how we can live creatively and even joyfully in the face of...
Dancing With The Cannibal Giant: New Stories for the Great Transition
35 min · "When today's stories of crushing greed and endless growth have come to an end, what, then, will be the new stories?" This film was created as an educational tool that can be used to move us beyond disempowerment, in order to enact...
A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil
51 min · Cities should be a solution not a problem for human beings. The city of Curitiba has demonstrated for the past 40 years how to transform problems into cost-effective solutions that can be applied in most cities around the world. A...
Dysfunctional Societies: How Equality Makes Societies Stronger
40 min · What distinguishing feature do the world's healthiest and happiest societies have in common? According to acclaimed author Richard Wilkinson, the answer is simple: they have far less income inequality than other societies. In this new...
Inhabitants: Indigenous Perspectives On Restoring Our World
76 min · INHABITANTS follows five Native American communities as they restore their traditional land management practices in the face of a changing climate. For millennia Native Americans successfully stewarded and shaped their landscapes, but...
School Circles: Every Voice Matters
89 min · School Circles is an independent documentary that explores the practice of democratic schools in the Netherlands. The film shows students, teachers and staff members coming together to dialogue, discuss proposals, mediate conflicts and...
Accidental Anarchist
86 min · Carne Ross was a government highflyer. A career diplomat who believed Western Democracy could save us all. But working inside the system he came to see its failures, deceits and ulterior motives. He felt at first hand the corruption of...
Within Reach: Journey to Find Sustainable Community
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 around the USA seeking sustainable community. Rather than...
A Bold Peace: Costa Rica's Path of Demilitarization
90 min · 70 years ago Costa Rica abolished its army and committed itself to fostering a peaceful society. It has been reaping the benefits ever since.
Advertising & The End of The World
47 min · Advertising & the End of the World features an illustrated presentation by Sut Jhally of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the producer and writer of the award-winning Dreamworlds series.
Affluenza
56 min · AFFLUENZA diagnoses a serious social disease - caused by consumerism, commercialism and rampant materialism - that is having a devastating impact on our families, communities, and the environment. We have more stuff, but less time, and...
GIFT
90 min · Inspired by Lewis Hyde’s beloved classic The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, GIFT is a richly cinematic film, interweaving character‐driven stories.
Overload: America's Toxic Love Story
71 min · Before starting a family, Soozie Eastman, daughter of an industrial chemical distributor, embarks on a journey to find out the levels of toxins in her body and explores if there is anything she or anyone else can do to change them...
Redefining Prosperity
57 min · The story of how a mining town recovered from its legacy of pollution and prospered by building community around the battle to save their beautiful river. Born in the California Gold Rush, Nevada City was once the scene of some of...
Call Of Life: Facing The Mass Extinction
80 min · All over the world species are becoming extinct at an astonishing rate, from 1000 to 10,000 times faster than normal. The loss of biodiversity has become so severe that scientists are calling it a mass extinction event.
Spiritually Incorrect
88 min · Told through the life of Alan Clements, Spiritually Incorrect shatters numerous light-washed sacred cows of the spiritual movement and explores sustainability from an inner perspective - showing how we can escape the trap of spiritual...
Paradise with Side Effects
40 min · A documentary following two women from Ladakh, a remote region in the Himalayas, on a reality tour of London to see what life in the West is really like. The tour, sponsored by Local Futures, exposes the women to aspects of modern urban...
Self-Taught: Life Stories From Self-Directed Learners
77 min · Through the stories of six extraordinary individuals, Self-Taught explores what self-directed education means to them and the impact it has had on their lives, ambitions, work and beliefs.
We Are Many
105 min · On February 15th, 2003, up to 30 million people, many of whom had never demonstrated before, came out in nearly 800 cities around the world to protest against the impending Iraq War. We Are Many is the never-before-told story of the...
Ancient Futures:  Learning From Ladakh
59 min · Ladakh, or 'Little Tibet', is a wildly beautiful desert land high in the Western Himalayas. It is a place of few resources and an extreme climate. Yet for more than 1,000 years, it has been home to a thriving culture. Traditions of...
To The Ends of the Earth
75 min · "Wonderfully in touch with this historical moment". - Mark Achbar, The Corporation  "To the Ends of the Earth" follows concerned citizens living at the frontiers of extreme oil and gas extraction, bearing witness to a global...
Oyler: Can a School Save a Community?
56 min · OYLER profiles how an innovative "community school" helped fuel a dramatic turnaround in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, part of a growing national movement to help poor children succeed by transforming schools to meet basic health...
Let Them Eat Dirt: The Hunt For Our Kids' Missing Microbes
57 min · Allergies, obesity, asthma, diabetes, auto-immune and intestinal disorders are all on the rise, with the incidence of some diseases doubling every ten years. New research points to changes in the ecosystem of microbes that live on and...
Fly By Light: A Film about Discovering Your True Nature
83 min · Fly By Light is an intimate exploration of young people seeking to overcome the violence in their lives and create a new path for their future by connecting to a world outside their neighborhoods. In Washington, DC, where high school...
Freedom Ahead: Democracy Does Not Offer Freedom, Nature Does
60 min · Never before in history have so many people relied on so few for the basic essentials of life.
The Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of News
60 min · If you think U.S. news has a liberal bias, this assumption-shattering film from Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, and Justin Lewis will have you thinking again. Making the common-sense case that mainstream news media are more committed to...
Capitalism Hits The Fan
57 min · With breathtaking clarity, renowned University of Massachusetts Economics Professor Richard Wolff breaks down the root causes of today's economic crisis, showing how it was decades in the making and in fact reflects seismic failures...
War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death
72 min · This critically acclaimed look at American war propaganda exhumes five decades of remarkable archival footage to show how presidents from both parties have relied on fear-driven political spin and craven media complicity to sell a...
Tomorrow's Children
35 min · Do politically expedient proposals for more testing prepare children for the challenges of the 21st century? What is the role of schools in a time when the mass media are children's most frequent teachers? In Tomorrow's Children, based...
Broken On All Sides: Race, Mass Incarceration and New Visions for Criminal Justice
73 min · Today, there are more Americans in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. The prison population has exploded by 500% since the end of the Civil Rights and Black Power...
Freedom of Expression: Resistance & Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property
52 min · In 1998, university professor Kembrew McLeod (Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa) made headlines when he successfully trademarked the phrase "freedom of expression" to call attention to the extremes...
This Land is Our Land: The Fight to Reclaim the Commons
47 min · For more than three decades, transnational corporations have been busy buying up what used to be known as the commons -- everything from our forests and our oceans to our broadcast airwaves and our most important intellectual and...

 

PS: There are actually over 1,000 free documentaries on this site, so if you're short on funds, there are lots more great films to check out in the meantime!

Many are some real hidden gems.

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