What ‘Science’ Has to Say About DCEFF 2016

From Babushkas to Bluespace, staff members from the magazine review 12 films from the Festival.

In a recent feature entitled, “Fighting for our future,” staff members from Science magazine shared their thoughts on 12 films from the 2016 Festival. Take a look at the highlights below:


Babushkas of ChernobylThe Babushkas of Chernobyl

Reviewed by Kelly Servick

[Director Holly Morris‘] nuanced depiction in The Babushkas of Chernobyl defines the dangers of the exclusion zone through many eyes: the geophysicists and government employees who are its stewards, the defiant groups of young Ukrainians who periodically sneak in for a glimpse at their generation-defining disaster, and three exuberant “babushkas,” who tromp through their contaminated kingdom with wry humor and mind-boggling grit.


Ever the Land

Reviewed by Jennifer Sills

The documentary is unembellished; there are no soaring strings to imbue events with emotion, no interviews to provide context, no titles to identify the people shown on the screen, and no omniscient narrator. The viewer is not so much a spectator as a witness, quietly observing the Tūhoe people [of the Māori tribe in New Zealand] as they take part in the innumerable mundane moments that cumulatively bring about change.


Good Things Await17. Good_Things_Await

Reviewed by Dorie Chevlen

This Danish film paints Niels Stokholm’s biodynamic farm Thorshøjgaard into a picture of hyperbolic beauty: sweeping shots of verdant landscape, sensitive close-ups of leaves dripping with morning dew, and sumptuous sunsets, all accompanied by goose-bump-raising vocals of an a cappella choir … If Good Things Await fails in convincing viewers of the superiority of biodynamic farming, it’s only because, for all its cinematographic power, it cannot undo the reality that this world is one of love and beauty, yes, but also of blood.


Catching the Sun

Reviewed by Marc Lavine

Would a switch from fossil fuels to solar power create or destroy more jobs? Would the installation of solar panels on houses and businesses empower individuals and communities? Would it truly shift wealth from megacorporations to the less wealthy? Although not directly asked, these questions emerge from the stories told in Catching the Sun from filmmaker Shalini Kantayya


Ice and the Sky5. ice_and_the_sky-2

Reviewed by Brent Grocholski

[Claude] Lorius’s discoveries had a profound impact on our understanding of climate change. He was the first to recognize that tiny gas bubbles trapped in ancient ice tell a story of our planet’s temperature in the deep past. The film succeeds in demonstrating the strong tie between greenhouse gases like CO2 and temperature, making the connection between humans and global warming obvious. Surprisingly, it was the discovery of radioisotopes from an atmospheric nuclear test, not the results of his own research, that eventually shocked Lorius into the realization that no place on Earth has escaped the imprint of humanity.

Women and Water

Reviewed by Carolyn Gramling

There are few words in the film Women and Water; only occasional quiet narration from its subjects and the ambient sounds of their work punctuate the often stunning visuals. But Spanish filmmaker Nocem Collado still tells a powerful story of modern India’s water woes: rivers choked with trash, sewage, and chemical waste; mosquito-borne diseases; and women traveling long distances to fetch water.


How to Let Go of the World how to let go

Reviewed by Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink

This unusually uplifting film about climate change starts and ends with a dance … Told in a highly personal and idiosyncratic style, How to Let Go of the World does that rare thing: inspires hope in the face of climate change.



Merchants of Doubt

Reviewed by Laura M. Zahn

‘I’m not a scientist, although I do play one on TV occasionally,’ says Marc Morano, founder of the climate-change-denying website ClimateDepot.com. This statement summarizes the premise of Merchants of Doubt, a film that exposes the public relations tactics that are employed to cast doubt on science. Based on Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s 2010 book of the same name, the film explores the early groundwork laid by the tobacco companies to sell ‘doubt [as] our product’ and examines how tactics to deny science have been, and continue to be, applied to flame retardants and, most prominently, climate change.

Can You Dig This Can You Dig This

Reviewed by Nick Wigginton

City residents living in ‘food deserts’ lack easy access to grocery stores or other healthy food options. This situation disproportionately occurs in low-income communities, lowering overall public health and exacerbating inequality. Ron Finley of South Los Angeles, one of the primary subjects of Can You Dig This, paints an even grimmer picture. He likens the situation to a ‘food prison,’ whereby permission is often required to simply grow food in cities. Through a series of intimate portraits, filmmaker Delila Vallot shines a light on not just the challenges of urban farming as they pertain to environmental justice but of overall urban life in Los Angeles.

An American Ascent

Reviewed by Lauren Kmec

In his famous speech, Martin Luther King Jr. declared, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low.” Flashbacks to this speech are featured in An American Ascent, which chronicles the journey of nine African-American mountaineers as they endeavor to climb Denali, North America’s highest peak, on the 100th anniversary of its first summit. Accompanied by four guides, the men and women set out to test their personal limits and challenge people of color to rethink their relationship with the great outdoors. Most of the climbers have never attempted a trek of this magnitude, and many encounter disapproval from their peers, yet they are compelled to show that the natural world is a place for everyone.


Bluespace bluespace

Reviewed by Barbara Jasny

Bluespace uses the possibility of terraforming Mars as a (sometimes loose) organizing principle for examining Earth’s endangered ecosystems … Despite its uneven presentation, the documentary offers an interesting take on an unusual topic.


Reviewed by Caroline Ash

Poached is a film about the obsession that drives some Englishmen to extremes to collect wild bird eggs. These men will climb trees and cliffs—several have fallen to their deaths—in pursuit of eggs. Those of rare birds of prey, including ospreys, peregrine falcons, and hen and marsh harriers, are esteemed, but most prized of all are golden and white-tailed eagles. It seems that the more inaccessible the nest and the more vigilant the protection officers, the stronger the drive to collect becomes … Although the environmentalist message might be lacking, this is nevertheless a powerful film exploring personalities gripped by obsession.


Read the full Science article here.


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