Films to watch for Earth Day

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'Honeyland'
Ljubo Stefanov

Since 1993, Boulder’s Global Greengrants Fund has been supporting grassroots movements and communities on the frontlines of environmental and climate justice battles all over the world. 

Every year, the staff curates a syllabus of their favorite books, movies and podcasts related to environmental and human rights issues. This year, they’ve focused on environmental and social justice themed films. 

To learn something new

Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai: Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmental activist who dedicated her life to promoting human rights, gender equality and protecting the planet — all through the revolutionary act of planting trees. Her founding of the Green Belt Movement earned Wangari the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize as well as the Nobel Prize. Follow the journey of this exceptional activist. (Bonus: for a list of the best African environmental films, click here.) 

Birders: The river that flows along the U.S.-Mexico border is a major convening point for migratory birds — as well as the people who love them. Birders guides us on a journey through a famous avian migration route, featuring expert insight from conservationists from both sides of the border. The freedom of these birds poses a stark contrast from the current political reality, reminding us that migration is natural, human and beautiful.

Honeyland: Watch this film to transport yourself to the rugged, isolated mountains of North Macedonia, where wild beekeeper Hatidze Muratova is using ancestral knowledge to save the bees and restore natural balance in nature.

CBQM: Now more than ever, grassroots activists are turning to virtual media, such as radio, to keep up their fight. CBQM is a heartfelt love letter to Indigenous community radio, spotlighting a radio station that is a pillar of local identity and pride in Teetl’it Gwich’in, a small community north of the Arctic Circle in the Canadian Northwest Territories. (Bonus: check out this massive free catalogue of indigenous films.) 

The Biggest Little Farm: Follow one couple’s journey as they leave the bustling, concrete metropolis of Los Angeles to pursue their lifelong dream of building and maintaining a sustainable farm.

Well-known films you can’t miss

Erin Brockavich: The true story of a single mother who pleads with her attorney to hire her at his law firm, where she then almost single-handedly brings down California energy giant PG&E for contaminating a city’s water supply.

Even the Rain: También la lluvia is a look at the tumultuous Cochabamba water wars, a true fight for access to the right to clean water in Bolivia. The film won awards internationally, including an Ariel Award and three Goya awards.

Chasing Ice: This film follows a National Geographic photographer, once a climate skeptic himself, on a journey to document a multi-year record of the world’s rapidly disappearing glaciers.

For the whole family

Studio Ghibli: These Japanese animated films tackle themes of environmental conservation and climate change and are sure to delight kids and adults alike. Our staff love Nausicaä Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke.

Wall-E: Follow the journey of the world’s last remaining robot as he spends most of his days tidying up our planet. Exploring the potential of human extinction is a pretty heavy topic, but ‘Wall-E’ does so in a cartoon, G-rated way that is appropriate for all ages.

FernGully: The Last Rainforest: An oldie but a goodie. Crysta, a fairy who lives in the FernGully rainforest of Australia, accidentally shrinks a boy who works for a logging company that invades her home. He then sees the damage the company has done, and teams up with the fairy to help stop the loggers.

Bonus: films we’ve funded

Not Without Us: Featuring the co-chair of our Board of Directors, Nnimmo Bassey, Not Without Us follows seven grassroots activists to Paris for COP21. While they are not allowed in the formal conversations, they use their voices from outside the COP to demand urgent action on the climate crisis. We are proud to have supported the production of this documentary with a grant in 2016.

Standing on Sacred Ground: Around the world, indigenous people are standing up for their sacred lands in defense of cultural survival, human rights and the environment. We have a soft spot in our heart for the Sacred Land Film Project as they have long recommended grants the Earth Island Institute, and many of these films feature our grantees.

This blogpost originally appeared at Global Greengrants Fund.