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DIRT! The Movie

The story of Earth's most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility, from its miraculous beginning to its crippling degradation.

A printer-friendly version of this page 80 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow
Produced by Bill Benenson, Gene Rosow, Eleonore Dailly
Executive Producer: Laurie Benenson
Inspired by the book: "Dirt, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth" by William Bryant Logan
Written by Gene Rosow, Linda Post, Laurie Benenson
Editors: Jonathan P. Shaw, A.C.E. and Brian Singbiel
Co-Director: Eleonore Dailly
Music: Jorge Corante
Music Supervisor: Tom Schnabel
Narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis
A Common Ground Media Production

"A great way to introduce people to the importance of healthy soil." Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, Washington State University
Note: There are two versions of this program on the same DVD: 80-minutes and a shorter 40-minute version designed primarily for educational use.

Dirt! The Movie introduces viewers to dirt's fascinating history. Four billion years of evolution have created the dirt that recycles our water, gives us food, provides us shelter, and that can be used as a source of medicine, beauty and culture.

However, people have become greedy and careless, endangering this vital living resource with destructive methods of agriculture, mining practices, and urban development. The word dirt has become "dirty". This abusive behavior has yielded catastrophic results, which the film does not shy away from: mass starvation, drought, floods and global warming.

Dirt! The Movie proves that times are changing. More than 25 renowned global visionaries in countries around the world are discovering new ways of thinking as they come together to repair this natural resource with practical, viable solutions. These participants include Bill Logan, Andy Lipkis, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Fritjof Capra, Pierre Rabhi, Wangari Maathai, Wes Jackson and Majora Carter.

To capture these prescient people and their inspiring stories, the production team filmed in more than 20 locations, including Argentina, Brazil, France, India, Kenya, and several regions of the United States.

On their journey, the filmmakers found:
• farmers and agronomists re-discovering sustainable agriculture
• tiny villages standing up for their right to feed their families
• scientists discovering connections with soil that can help reduce global warming including ways to generate electricity from soils and sediments
• inmates finding inner peace and job skills in a prison horticulture program
• children uncovering the secrets of soil fertility and eating from edible schoolyards.

Dirt! The Movie uncovers the surprising ways we can repair our relationship with dirt and create new possibilities for all life on earth. You may never look at the ground beneath your feet quite the same.

Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2010     Copyright Date: 2009
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-940-2

"Dirt! The Movie celebrates soil and our connection to it. It reminds us of our physical and spiritual connection to the land, and of the perils we face when we ignore those connections between exploitation of the land and exploitation of those who live in a traditional subsistence culture on the land...I hope that it will prompt people to think about, respect, and re-connect with the soil."
Craig Cogger, Scientist, Extension Specialist, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University

"This is a great way to introduce people to the importance of healthy soil. Viewers will discover that soil is not just 'dirt,' but a vast community of interconnected species. The health and survival of these communities ultimately affects the well-being of humans. This movie encourages all of us to become better stewards of this irreplaceable living system."
Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, Urban Horticulture Extension Specialist, Washington State University, Author, The Informed Gardener and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again

"This film is a valuable contribution that graphically illustrates the importance of soil within the ecosystem and demonstrates how soil must be properly used and managed."
Dr. Gary Petersen, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Soil and Land Resources, The Pennsylvania State University

"A creative, uplifting, energizing production capable of inspiring viewers of all ages to get dirty...A valuable resource for any school, especially those teaching environmental responsibility and the connectedness of Earth's systems."
AAAS's Science Books and Film

"Dirt! flows smoothly and quickly, making connections between fungi growing under a forest log to the lives of farmers in India...Both versions open up many points where discussion might follow, including how the abuse of dirt can be connected to the abuse of human rights and how we might act as positive agents in favor of both dirt and marginalized people...The film introduces a broad range of topics in a short amount of time through an artful medium."
Emily E. Thorn, Colorado State University, Teaching Sociology

"A strong call to renew our ties with the land and protect life-sustaining dirt."

"Clearly, dirt doesn't enjoy a good name--just think of 'dirt poor' and 'dirty jokes.' Yet in filmmakers Bill Benenson and Gene Roscow's Dirt! The Movie...dirt emerges as one of the noblest substances on earth...Highly recommended."
Video Librarian

"A bold and interesting approach...A movie like this has to connect the role of soil in the geological, agricultural, architectural dimensions that accompany it. By using a wide array of interviews, animations and archival footage the film presents the often missed aspects of the role of top soil in the wider economic picture of sustainable agriculture...The audiences for such a film are best found in 8th grade and high school students as part of a science curriculum. The film also has good use in introductory geology courses at the college level, as well as courses which make use of ecological content. The film exists to bring some awareness of the value of biodiversity and soil management to those who might have little or no understanding of food production or life beyond an urban setting. The local community building features of the film are inspiring."
Troy Belford, Wichita State University, Anthropology Reviews Database

"An excellent film to share with students to highlight the importance of soil and its environmental importance...The DVD includes an imaginary story that could be used by itself as an allegorical lesson about our obligation to care for the environment. There is a fire in a forest. All the animals are forced out and they all stand around looking at the fire--except for the hummingbird. It flies to the river, gets a drop of water and flies back dropping it on the fires. Over and over again it returns to the fire while the other animals stand by and watch. When challenged by the other animals, the bird replies, 'I am doing the best that I can.' Sharing that story with my students would alone make this video worth using in my classroom."
Claudia Fetters, retired biology and earth science teacher, NSTA Recommends

"The awards say it all. This is a terrific film, well written and expertly filmed, full of interesting and useful information that flows along. It is factual storytelling at its best. Highly Recommended."
Janis Tyhurst, George Fox University, Educational Media Reviews Online

"An innovative lesson that covers the gamut from the science of dirt filtering water to organic farming to using dirt to build homes to the need for creating green spaces in urban areas...This inspiring, informative program can be utilized in classes across the curriculum."
School Library Journal

"Inspiring...Dirt! The Movie is a film with a crucial message, and well worth watching. It's an excellent movie for a teacher or professor to use for any age student, as an introduction to an ecology unit, or to open any variety of topics involving life on the planet...If everyone on the planet were aware of the issues covered in this film, we might stand a chance of actually turning thing around before we exhaust the planet's resources."
Sally Kneidel, PhD, co-Author, Going Green: A Wise Consumer's Guide to a Shrinking Planet and Veggie Revolution: Smart Choices for a Healthy Body and A Healthy Planet

"An invigorating look at an invaluable substance we take for granted that makes the case that 'dirt might be more alive than we are.'"
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

"Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow employ a colorful combination of animation, vignettes, and personal accounts from people to teach us about dirt--where it comes from, how we regard (or disregard) it, how it sustains us, the way it has become endangered, and what we can do about it. The fresh and generous spirit of Dirt! The Movie is simple and energizing."
Denver Film Society

"Single-subject histories have dominated the last decade. Books and films on salt, wine, coffee, gin, corn, and fast food each attempt to tell a larger story by means of a narrow focus. Dirt! The Movie, based on the book Dirt, the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, by William Bryant Logan, succeeds better than any of them. Bleak and hopeful by turns, the 80-minute documentary by Bill Beneson and Gene Rosow touches on the rise of environmentalism, the postwar industrialization of farming, strip mining, green architecture and city planning, global warming, the origins of the earth, the life cycle of forests, and sustainable agriculture."

"An unrelentingly uplifting film, showcasing environmentalists and other dirt-lovers from all over the world who've planted many seeds to produce a cornucopia of eco-solutions...Dirt! The Movie highlights the interconnectedness of the many environmental issues we face."
Mother Nature Network

"Filmmakers Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow create a compelling reason why we need to pay better attention to the earth under our feet. "
Harriette Yahr, indieWIRE

"A fascinating documentary that celebrates the soil that covers our planet."
David D'Arcy, The National

"A humorous and substantial look into the history and current state of the living organic matter that we come from and will later return to."
Stephen Hinton, The Humanitarian Water and Food Award

"An uplifting story about people from all walks of life who are striving to renew our relationship with the ground beneath our feet."
Shannon L. Bowen, The Hollywood Reporter

"Thought-provoking...welcome humor and visual pizzazz."
Andrew Barker, Variety

Select your institution type

DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
The DVD includes two versions of the film: the full 80-minute version and a shorter 40-minute version designed primarily for educational use. There are also 120 minutes of extras including extended interviews with Alice Waters, Sebastiao & Lelia Salgado, Wangari Maathai, David Orr, Janine Benyus, Vandana Shiva, Miguel Altieri, Andy Lipkis, Paul Stamets, Richard Register, Jeanette Armstrong, Thomas Linzey, Bill Logan, Peter Girguis and Gary Vaynerchuk. Also included are scene selection and English subtitles.

20-page resource guide with links for different educational curricula and resources, plus a discussion guide, and suggested actiivities for policy makers and communities
The film's website
PBS's discussion guide
PBS's screening facilitator's guide

Awards and Festivals
Sundance Film Festival
National PBS Broadcast on "Independent Lens"
Best Film for Our Future, Mendocino Film Festival
Best Green Documentary, Maui Film Festival
Best Documentary, Visions/Voices, Eckerd College Environmental Film Festival
Honorable Mention, Columbus International Film and Video Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Woods Hole Film Festival
Maine International Film Festival
San Francisco Green Film Festival
Manhattan Independent Film Festival
Gainesville Environmental Film & Art Festival
Revolve Film & Music Festival
Reel Change SustainAbility Film Fest
Reel Food Festival
Reel Earth Environmental Film Festival, New Zealand
EcoFocus Film Festival
Princeton Environmental Film Festival
FilmAmbiente International Environmental Film Festival
Feast On This Film Festival
One Earth Film Festival

Climate Change/Global Warming
Earth Science
Environmental Ethics
Food And Nutrition
Global Issues
Indigenous Peoples
Natural Resources
Sustainable Agriculture

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... more Reviews

"Watching Dirt! The Movie is an experience worth sharing. Packed with information that is alternately troubling and inspiring--but mostly inspiring--it's a totally accessible film about a fascinating subject. I guarantee you'll come away from this film with a new respect for the soil that keeps us all alive on this planet...It's a film you'll likely want to watch more than once--and, chances are, you'll learn something new each time."
Julia Wasson, Blue Planet Green Living

"This celebratory homage to what's beneath our feet is both beautiful and educational. Dirt, the speakers and the images in this film make clear, is the foundation of life: In order to sustain that life, we must respect and care for dirt. Sound heavy? Animated dirt clods occasionally bounce into the frame to add a little levity."
Yes! Magazine

"Lively, often funny...It's a great find--and not just for gardeners."

"Is it possible to make an 80-minute documentary on the subject? How exciting is sward play? Some silt? A few clods? A little muck pile, maybe? In the industrious hands of producers Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow, Dirt! The Movie sure beats hoeing your garden. By using animation techniques and interviews with leading soil experts and scientists, the team has created a fascinating glimpse into just how life-giving all that crumbly stuff is...After seeing this film, a prize winner at film festivals, you will definitely have a newfound respect for the stuff beneath your feet."
John Stanley, San Francisco Chronicle

"Mass starvation, drought, floods, global warming, wars, and disease are all byproducts of misused or underserved soil...If practices such as monoculture planting and rainforest razing continue, dirt may just find another use for us humans...Long live dirt!"
Better Farms blog

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