Films for Action
November 7, 2012 9:56 AM   Subscribe

The Top 100 Documentaries Inspiring the Shift to a Sustainable Paradigm
posted by ladybird (34 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
When somebody makes a Movie Blockbuster (especially one with superheroes) with that kind of message, it might make a difference. Until then, we have Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne leading the way.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:14 AM on November 7, 2012


Was An Inconvenient Truth somehow too mainstream for them?
posted by roofus at 10:16 AM on November 7, 2012


It's towards the very bottom.
posted by Kitteh at 10:26 AM on November 7, 2012


No, that was 93. 'A Convenient Truth'
posted by MtDewd at 10:33 AM on November 7, 2012


Someone at work today told me that she really wished she could live off the grid, but she needed cable to watch Doomsday Preppers. It's only tangentially related, but it was quite a moment.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:43 AM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


My main feeling about this list is one of wonder. I remember a column written around the time of Michael Moore's first mainstream documentary (by Jon Carroll of SF), close to twenty years ago, about how we all view documentaries as high school educational boredom, whereas they were actually pretty interesting, and there should perhaps be theaters dedicated to the viewing of documentaries.

What a wondrous time we live in, then, when "nonfiction film" is actually a viable medium and a part of public discourse! (Although the demographic of people who actually attend these documentaries, sadly, is mostly limited to a certain class of people - and the word class has its socio-economic implications here.)
posted by kozad at 10:43 AM on November 7, 2012


What a wondrous time we live in, then, when "nonfiction film" is actually a viable medium and a part of public discourse!

I am less sanguine. The standard dirty tricks of corporate media documentaries (fast pans, harrowing music, quick cuts, fades to black and white) have become part and parcel of every truther/chemtrails/conspiracy nut. I assume that's the price of greater access to the tools, but now most documentaries instinctively turn me off when I watch them, because I notice when they start trying to use emotionally manipulative techniques. Granted, you could say music itself is such a technique, and thus, emotional manipulation in an inherent part of the medium.

And as far as "attending" documentaries, viral internet videos have done a lot to put the distribution into the hands of everyday people, again, including birthers/kony/truthers. But the answer to bad speech is more speech, and not shutting up the idiots by denying them these tools, because it is easy to then have those tools torn away from oneself.

Still, when someone sends me a youtube link to a video that fades up from black and white, with low noted strings in the background, I grimace.
posted by zabuni at 10:51 AM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Granted, you could say music itself is such a technique, and thus, emotional manipulation in an inherent part of the medium.

In "Amusing Ourselves to Death", Neil Postman points out that the musical accompaniment to an ostensibly informational program (e.g. any news program ever) is an indication that the program is really for entertainment. Straight informational content would not warrant music.

It's not inherent to the medium. You don't have to have music just because you have video. It's just very common. But you may even be taken more seriously if you don't have music (for an example in fiction of the effect of a lack of music on the empathic distance one has from the material being presented, see the Buffy episode The Body).
posted by Jpfed at 11:05 AM on November 7, 2012


"sustainable" is turning into a buzzword

life is not actually "sustainable"
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:24 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I expected this to be just a list, but most, if not all, of the films are watchable on the net.
posted by Harald74 at 11:27 AM on November 7, 2012


Someone at work today told me that she really wished she could live off the grid, but she needed cable to watch Doomsday Preppers. It's only tangentially related, but it was quite a moment.

Off the grid is far less sustainable than on the grid.
Grid-tied-solar/wind = green & more sustainable
Off-grid solar/wind = the opposite of green and sustainable

battery-solar is an expensive convenience option for where the grid is not available. If the grid is available, you're adding to environmental destruction by opting off it. Using the grid doesn't mean adding demand for coal power, but it does mean being far more efficient about resource use.
posted by anonymisc at 11:33 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's more, being connected to the grid and running solar, for instance, means that at some times you will be a net exporter of energy to the grid. This wouldn't happen if you weren't connected, of course.
posted by Mister_A at 11:49 AM on November 7, 2012


In "Amusing Ourselves to Death", Neil Postman points out that the musical accompaniment to an ostensibly informational program (e.g. any news program ever) is an indication that the program is really for entertainment.

One valid use -- Interval Signals in radio. Say you want to listen to the Shipping Forecast at 0048. At 0045ish, you start tuning in your radio. How do you know you've found the BBC?

Because you hear "Sailing By." Then, you wait, and at 0048, you'll hear "And now the Shipping Forecast, issued by the Met Office..."

Most of the big SW/MW/LW stations have a distinctive tune that's played at significant times to help you tune in. Even Number Stations often have them -- the reason the Lincolnshire Poacher was nicknamed that is that it played that tune as an interval signal. The BBC had "Lilibolero", VoA had "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean", the Voice of Russia uses the "Great Gates of Kiev", as did Radio Moscow back in the day. Radio Berlin had "Auferstanden aus Ruinen."

The interval signals were the beacons in the era of radio, and they're still used in special applications today.
posted by eriko at 11:50 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of my cats just collapsed up against my thigh in an obvious attempt to be adorable. What I can't understand is why there has yet to be a documentary made about her darling little fluffball of a personality, her wuvable actions, and how they affect the current state of world affairs.

Morgan Moore, get on it!
posted by item at 12:33 PM on November 7, 2012


12. The Age of Stupid (2009) - Not currently available.

You cannot deny YouTube.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:34 PM on November 7, 2012


Bulgaroktonos: Someone at work today told me that she really wished she could live off the grid, but she needed cable to watch Doomsday Preppers. It's only tangentially related, but it was quite a moment.
"I want to protest Chick-Fil-A's hateful homophobic actions, but their chicken is just so darned tasty."

(See also: anti-segregationists who just couldn't help that the buses were so danged convenient in Montgomery, Alabama.)
posted by IAmBroom at 12:59 PM on November 7, 2012


I'm surprised that they don't have any of the Adam Curtis films on that list. His films were what opened my eyes to the world of independent documentary films. It also opened me up to a much broader appreciation of the methods which are used to create emotional impact through the medium of television and film, as many of them examine and take apart the methods used through the age of advertising.

Some of the films on that list that I have watched, though, were pretty much idiotic. They had a good premise, but the creators went way off the rails with some of their proposed "solutions" or their philosophical ramblings that kind of were just pointing out absurdities and trying to mock them, in a painfully unfunny way. It's like a freshly minted Marxist railing against corporations. We've all heard the joke, we all laughed at it, but it's not so funny anymore and we need something constructive, not snark and jokes.

Also, I wish "A History of Oil" was on that list. The tenuous links in it are kind of interesting in a threaded narrative way, but it also was one of the first documentaries that explained to me the link between the CIA, the Shah of Iran, and brought to my attention the theory of the Magic Checkbook, which is a simplistic view, but does do a rather good job of explaining American foreign policy outside the context of the Cold War narrative that many of use grew up in the 80's with.

Anyway. Yeah.
posted by daq at 1:32 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you mean Rob Newman's History of Oil
posted by fullerine at 2:47 PM on November 7, 2012


Off the grid is far less sustainable than on the grid.
Grid-tied-solar/wind = green & more sustainable
Off-grid solar/wind = the opposite of green and sustainable

battery-solar is an expensive convenience option for where the grid is not available. If the grid is available, you're adding to environmental destruction by opting off it. Using the grid doesn't mean adding demand for coal power, but it does mean being far more efficient about resource use.


Is this sarcasm? What the h are you talking about? Can you show the math?

I can show the math on my end. 1.6kw of solar ($4800, 20yr lifespan, $240/yr), 1000a/hr AGM battery bank ($1000, 6yr life, $166/yr), 50 gallons of diesel yearly ($200) to make it through rainy/cloudy times. $600 total per year. I doubt I'd pay $50/month for my utility bill if I was on the grid.

That runs 2 fridges, freezer, icemaker, lights, tv, dvr, sat tv, A/C, stereo, wifi router, etc.
posted by karst at 2:50 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


fullerine,
Yes.
It's wonderfully nutty, isn't it?
posted by daq at 4:24 PM on November 7, 2012


karst:

Generating 1.6kw for 8 hours a day every (though 6 would be more realistic averaging of the bellcurve), generates less power than you can buy from the grid for $50/month (utilitiy prices vary, I'm sure in some places it will be more. I'm using $0.13/kWhr)

But that doesn't matter because yeah, you missed my point, which is grid-tie generation, not grid purchase.

Buy your panels and inverter, but DON'T buy battery banks, generators, etc. THose are excessive unnecessary use of resources when you could simply use a grid-tie on the panels instead. Now not only have you used fewer resources on consumables, thus lowered the footprint, but you're selling your excess generation, reducing your costs further still and simultaneously lowering other people's footprint as well if you generation is cleaner than who they would otherwise be buying from.

Now you're generating the same energy, and have the same 24 hour access to it, but only using $25/month of resources to achieve it, instead of $50/month. Hence, more sustainable.

If the grid is not available, then the equation changes. But if that copper is already sitting there, it is environmentally harmful to not use it and instead go off and keep spending resources building and maintaining a crude redundant extra version of it.
posted by anonymisc at 6:11 PM on November 7, 2012


Granted, you could say music itself is such a technique, and thus, emotional manipulation in an inherent part of the medium.

Well, editing is such a technique. Interviewing is such a technique. Framing a narrative is such a technique. Setting a camera angle is such a technique. Sequencing is such a technique.

Yes, manipulation is an inherent part of the medium of narrative film of any kind.
posted by Miko at 6:12 PM on November 7, 2012


(For smaller installations, the paperwork/inspection costs of getting a grid-tie system certified may make it less financially attractive, but that arguably doesn't change the environmental advantage).

I love solar, so ugly inelegant use of it hits a nerve in me. Pet peeve counter-productive use of solar is those stupid "green" pathway/garden lights that are so much worse than regular lights. They fully charge cycle a NiCd (never NiMH) every day, so in a mere few seasons they nolonger function, at which point, a bunch of perfectly good solar panels (good for another 20+years) and a bunch of toxic cadnium, gets thrown in the trash!) You're probably paying hundreds of dollars per kilowatt hour - just to save a few cents of cable and the convenience of not having to run a wire. They suck in every way imaginable, except that it takes ten minutes instead of an hour to install them.
posted by anonymisc at 6:27 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry to continue the derail, but the single most efficient way to reduce consumption is to make the resource finite (in a meaningful, observable way). When you're grid tied there is no end to the energy. When you get synced mentally with a battery monitor you realize that leaving the tv on all night while you slept killed the batteries. That it's worth taking 3 mins and setting the DVD to power save mode. That LED bulbs are wildly efficient.

Living off the grid forces you to live within your means.

Those solar sidewalk trash compactors kill me.
posted by karst at 7:54 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


@karst that seems dangerously close to the whole capitalist bit about how if you have to pay money for things you'll value them more
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:21 PM on November 7, 2012


anonymisc: The pathway/garden lights I've had had regular AA rechargeable batteries, which can be replaced, with NiMH if you choose. Now, maybe not everyone knows that, but they're in a standard battery compartment which opens easily.
posted by alexei at 1:46 AM on November 8, 2012


The Corporation is a terrible, terrible film.

It has no logical structure. It makes important points but cannot link them in a compelling manner. Plenty of interviews are useless as they merely repeat points made earlier without adding anything of substance. It is far too long, it is worthy and it is very very dull. I was dying to enjoy this film and I barely stayed awake to the end of it. Its just bad.

If this is the best on the list, I'll pass.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 3:09 AM on November 8, 2012


I notice that at no 19 is Manufacturing Consent, a beautifully constructed film that is everything The Corporation isn't.

This list makes no sense.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 3:14 AM on November 8, 2012


"I want to protest Chick-Fil-A's hateful homophobic actions, but their chicken is just so darned tasty."

The Chick-Fil-Atheist.

Chickens are about as smart as dogs and monkeys, fwiw.

The Corporation is a terrible, terrible film.

I would agree that it's not a good film, but it's not a bad film by any means. It's just very simplistic. An analog would be Fahrenheit 9/11, or whatever. There are people to whom all that information is mind blowing. I also agree it suffers from repetition and plodding pacing at times. Not #1 for sure.

This list makes no sense.

Neither does human civilization.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:01 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to add that most of Adam Curtis' films are available on archive.org and that I always find his work insightful.
posted by nTeleKy at 9:16 AM on November 8, 2012


I like this kind of film and a lot of the films on the list. I like that there is a list.

This list, though, doesn't feel ranked. There are some less-good films at the top, and some highly impactful, excellent films near the bottom. It's also not in categories, which would help.
posted by Miko at 9:52 AM on November 8, 2012


mrgrimm:
Chickens are about as smart as dogs and monkeys, fwiw.
I was prepared to read your link and scoff... and instead learned something fascinating to ponder. Thanks.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:36 AM on November 9, 2012


I was prepared to read your link and scoff... and instead learned something fascinating to ponder.

It's always a challenge to find non-PETA-sourced material on that sort of thing, and COK has its own semi-extremist approaches to some issues, but I really like (what I know of) the organization.

And ... to come full circle .. back to the documentaries ... I noticed Fowl Play was not on the list. Too bad.

Want to see something really fascinating? From the movie, Jonathan Balcombe discusses the hidden intelligence of chickens.

It's like the woman says in the trailer: It has to stop.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:12 AM on November 9, 2012


Living off the grid forces you to live within your means.

No, because environmental sustainability is not how much energy you use, it is how much resources were consumed supporting your lifestyle. Because off-grid generation is wildly inefficient, you need to enforce those far more stringent consumption limits just to remain every bit as damaging as someone using a more sustainable system and happily wasting more electricity.

To make gains in sustainability, you need to increase the efficiency of generation (and doing so requires the grid) and reduce unnecessary consumption.

Living within our means financially does not imply living within our means environmentally.
posted by anonymisc at 11:33 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


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