The Moviegoer: Celebrate Earth Day with a Mini Film Festival

These films will make you appreciate the breadth and depth of the eco-movement 

This Earth Day it might be difficult to celebrate the wonders of the natural world. If you can take a walk or enjoy your backyard, do it – while maintaining a safe social distance. But if you’re stuck inside this Earth Day consider celebrating the best of planet Earth with some brilliant movies. 

Netflix: Virunga 

One of the most biodiverse places on the planet, Virunga National Park is the last haven of the mountain gorillas. Though the land is technically protected, the gorillas are hunted by violent poachers and their habitat is clandestinely destroyed by companies hoping to mine Congo for its rich natural resources. 

The only people standing between the gorillas of Virunga and death are a team of park rangers. One of the deadliest jobs on the planet, rangers are regularly killed so that gorillas can be hunted. Still, dedicated men and women do their best to preserve one of the most endangered species on the planet. 

A deeply moving documentary about the fight to save gorillas, Virunga is a must-watch for anyone interested in conservation. The rangers, including a former child soldier, are sympathetic and fascinating people who believe totally in their mission to protect mountain gorillas. Director Orlando von Einsiedel peppers the movie with beautiful footage of gorillas who’ve been saved by the rangers, and heart-rending footage of poached gorillas. This is not a film for little ones, but older teens and adults will be inspired to help join the fight to save the animals of Virunga. 

Great Documentary * NR * 90 mins. 

Hulu: Honeyland 

Hatidze Muratova lives alone in an abandoned village in the Balkans. She has no electricity, no car, and no running water. Each day she wakes, cares for her mother and then goes to work harvesting honey. Using ancient Macedonian techniques, Hatidze cultivates excellent honey and walks four hours to the nearest village to sell it. 

When a new family moves to the village, Hatidze is thrilled. She plays with the young children and offers to show the family how to properly keep bees. But when the family takes a less conservation-based approach to the honey harvesting, disaster threatens to befall Hatidze and her beloved bees. 

Featuring stunning cinematography, Honeyland  is a parable about conservation of nature and tradition. Directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov capture a beautiful tale of humanity, with Hatidze at the center as a dignified emblem of a rapidly vanishing way of life.  

Great Documentary * NR * 89 mins. 

Amazon Prime: Return of the River

Frequently, fighting for environmental causes can seem like a losing battle. It takes time to influence people and get governmental action. Return of the River  is proof that persistence pays off in a big way. 

The documentary follows the community fight to remove the Elwha River dam in Washington State. At first met with massive resistance, the community comes together to shift public opinion and prove the dam was irrevocably harming the salmon and wildlife that depended on the river. 

Good Documentary * NR * 69 mins. 

 Disney+ : Earth 

Learn about the astounding biodiversity of our planet by following three animal families – whales, polar bears, and elephants – as they embark on long treks in their habitat. The film features gorgeous nature photography that will make you appreciate the beauty of our world. 

It’s narrated by Mufasa himself (James Earl Jones), and shows off the sort of G-rated natural antics that will entice kids to learn more about animals. Follow the families on their journeys, learn about the amazing life they discover along the way, and get your kids interested in the world around them. T 

Good Documentary * G * 99 mins. 

Homegrown Films 

An Island Out of Time 

Learn about the beauty and tradition of Smith Island, a small community in the Chesapeake Bay that still preserves older traditions and lifestyles. The documentary talks about the unique culture of Smith Island, the fishing traditions, and the erosion that threatens to sink the island beneath the brackish waters of the Bay. 

You can watch this short documentary on MPT for free, and appreciate one of Maryland’s little known but beautiful communities: 

Good Documentary * NR * 25 mins. 

Baltimore’s Strange Fruit 

Stuck in a food desert, many citizens in the inner city of Baltimore don’t have easy access to diverse fruits and vegetables. Unsatisfied with the ability to provide nutritious food to their families, as well as corporate and social constructs that keep them from getting food, communities began to take action – by creating gardens. 

Learning to garden and take back the land helps Baltimoreans take a stand and find their way out of the food desert. An interesting documentary that covers social politics, class issues, food conservation, and community-backed solutions to problems, Baltimore’s Strange Fruit is a great look at how sowing seeds can help people flourish. 

Rent it here:   

Good Documentary * NR * 69 mins.