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Dirt! The Movie

by on April 6, 2010
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Apparently living in the shadow of the world’s focus on water conservation and the melting of the ice caps, dirt finally gets a little attention with this documentary by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow.

Dirt! The Movie, takes a deeper look into the earth’s “skin” and tries to illustrate just how the integral the stuff is to our ecological and agricultural systems which are, in turn, detrimental to the survival of society.

Here’s what Dirt! The Movie does: It makes you care about dirt. For those eco-conscious or at the very least, slightly eco-interested, the documentary helps explain how what we normally try to keep off of our own skin, plays a part in the flow of water, the life of plants, the growth of food and the overall wellness of the planet.

The film is narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis and features interviews with scientists, ecological experts, teachers, students and proponents of bringing focus to just how vital dirt is to the planet.

It starts with the push to get audiences to realize that the brown stuff is actually a living breathing thing and that within it, among its combination of minerals is an actual community.

One example, the story of a man who fell from a building in New York City, where it’s hard to find any dirt outside of Central Park. While he sat recovering in a hospital bed for months, the bed of his truck which carried in it a small amount of dirt and caught everything from paper trash to bird waste and leaves slowly turned into a fully functioning garden.

More and more, people in cities like New York are making use of their flat rooftops, turning them into green roofs, lined with soil, fostering plant life and catching rain water which is funneled down into rain barrels. The soil is the first step to creating a rooftop which in turn creates compost to continue growth, conserves water and allows plant life to put oxygen back into the atmosphere.

But just as water has been gaining more and more attention for its effects on society, an element that those desperate for it would kill for – so is the fate of dirt. The film explains how poor agricultural practices can affect the functionality of the soil itself, leading to starvation and drought – forcing some areas of the world to kill each other for what food is available.

As an introduction to the need for more conservation of soil, the documentary does good.

But here’s what Dirt! The Movie doesn’t do: It doesn’t come off as one of those savvy documentaries about our ecological system that tends to get better play and more attention. There are awkward and choppy illustrations and an opening sequence of space that feels oddly familiar in a freshman high school science film sort of way.

In between the little blob of brown with big cartoony eyes that keeps popping up throghout, the film is informative enough. Enough to be an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival, winner for best documentary at the Visions Voices Environmental Film Festival, the “best film for our future” at the Mendocino Film Festival and best green documentary at the Maui Film Festival.

It’s smart enough and done well enough it really doesn’t need the use of any science class style animation whatsoever.

But for those who may want to dig a little deeper and like that kind of animation – take heart. There are more than two hours of extras on the DVD including extended animations, interviews and bonus scenes.

3 Yaps