As we start 2012 with all of the promise that it brings for transformation, let’s take a look back at some of the amazing films or 2011 that brought us to this point, as judged by readers and editors of the AwareGuide, an online resource presented by Transformational Media, a company working with visionaries who are creating media to make a better world.
The results of the voting are in for the Viewer’s Choice, and the editors at AwareGuide offer their top picks for 2011, and recognize some films with special consideration. The response was overwhelming, with more than 5,000 people from more than 50 countries voting. The top film for 2011 is Thrive.
AwareGuide Viewer’s Choice
- 1. Thrive — An unconventional documentary that lifts the veil on what’s really going on in our world by following the money upstream, uncovering the global consolidation of power in nearly every aspect of our lives. Weaving together breakthroughs in science, consciousness and activism, Thrive offers real solutions, empowering us with unprecedented and bold strategies for reclaiming our lives and our future.
- 2. Economics of Happiness — Economic globalization has led to a massive expansion in the scale and power of big business and banking. It has also worsened nearly every problem we face: fundamentalism and ethnic conflict; climate chaos and species extinction; financial instability and unemployment. There are personal costs, too. For the majority of people on the planet, life is becoming increasingly stressful. We have less time for friends and family and we face mounting pressures at work. The Economics of Happiness describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, an unholy alliance of governments and big business continues to promote globalization and the consolidation of corporate power. At the same time, people all over the world are resisting those policies, demanding a re-regulation of trade and finance — and, far from the old institutions of power, they’re starting to forge a very different future. Communities are coming together to re-build more human scale, ecological economies based on a new paradigm — an economics of localization.
- 3. The Power of Two — A story of twin sisters, two cultures and two new chances at life. Inspired by their 2007 memoir, The Power Of Two, offers an intimate portrayal of the bond between half-Japanese twin sisters Anabel Stenzel and Isabel Stenzel Byrnes, their battle with the fatal genetic disease cystic fibrosis (CF) and miraculous survival through double lung transplants. Defying all odds, Ana and Isa have emerged as authors, athletes and global advocates for organ donation, and their connection to the CF and transplant communities provides rare insight into the struggles — and overlooked joys — of chronic illness.
- 4. Bag It — Our story follows Jeb Berrier, an average American guy who is admittedly not a “tree hugger,” who makes a pledge to stop using plastic bags. His girlfriend, Anne, joins him in the challenge to decrease their use of plastic at home. This small action gets Jeb thinking about plastic — not just about plastic bags, but other kinds of plastic. “What is plastic made of? Is it recyclable? Does it decompose when it ends up in the landfill? Does plastic have negative health effects?” Jeb wants to learn more, so he embarks on a global tour to unravel the complexities of our plastic world.
- 5. Bonsai People: The Vision of Muhammad Yunus — Bonsai People is a feature-length documentary film that explores the work of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and his vision from microcredit to social business. The latest documentary by award-winning filmmaker Holly Mosher is the first film looking at his work from microcredit to social business. The film is an emotionally compelling look at his work tackling poverty from all angles. “Seeing the real people in this movie gives you the real experience,” Yunus says.
- 6. I AM — I AM is an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better? The filmmaker behind the inquiry is Tom Shadyac, one of Hollywood’s leading comedy practitioners and the creative force behind such blockbusters as Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor and Bruce Almighty. However, in I AM, Shadyac steps in front of the camera to recount what happened to him after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged with a new sense of purpose, determined to share his own awakening to his prior life of excess and greed, and to investigate how he as an individual, and we as a race, could improve the way we live and walk in the world.
- 7. Forks Over Knives — Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the so-called “diseases of affluence” that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
- 8. Vanishing of the Bees — Honeybees have been mysteriously disappearing across the planet, literally vanishing from their hives. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, this phenomenon has brought beekeepers to crisis in an industry responsible for producing apples, broccoli, watermelon, onions, cherries and a hundred other fruits and vegetables. Commercial honeybee operations pollinate crops that make up one out of every three bites of food on our tables. Vanishing of the Bees follows commercial beekeepers David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes as they strive to keep their bees healthy and fulfill pollination contracts across the U.S. The film explores the struggles they face as the two friends plead their case on Capital Hill and travel across the Pacific Ocean in the quest to protect their honeybees.
- 9. Wake Up — Jonas Elrod was leading an ordinary life until he woke up one day to a totally new reality. He suddenly could see and hear angels, demons, auras and ghosts. The documentary movie follows this fascinating story of an average guy who inexplicably developed the ability to access other dimensions. Physicians gave him a clean bill of health and were unable to provide an explanation. What was it? Why was it happening to him? One thing was certain for this 36-year old man — life as he had known it would never be the same.
- 10. The Big Fix — The Big Fix is an explosive, attention-demanding, feature-length film focusing on the environmental fallout of the BP oil spill. The film, by the Sundance Award winning team led by the Louisiana-raised eco-documentarian Josh Tickell and executive-produced by liberal actor-activists Peter Fonda and Tim Robbins, exposes the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, when the offshore drilling rig run by BP sunk into the Gulf of Mexico creating the worst oil spill in history.
- 11. Vegucated — Vegucated is a feature-length documentary that follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. There’s Brian, the bacon-loving bachelor who eats out all the time, Ellen, the single mom who prefers comedy to cooking, and Tesla, the college student who avoids vegetables and bans beans. They have no idea that so much more than steak is at stake and that the fate of the world may fall on their plates. Lured with true tales of weight lost and health regained, they begin to uncover hidden sides of animal agriculture and soon start to wonder whether solutions offered in films like Food, Inc. go far enough. Before long, they find themselves risking everything to expose an industry they supported just weeks before.
The AwareGuide Editor’s Choice (Alphabetical Order)
- Bag It — see description above
- Finding Joe: Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey — Finding Joe is an exploration of famed mythologist Joseph Campbell’s studies and their continuing impact on our culture. Through interviews with visionaries from a variety of fields interwoven with enactments of classic tales by a sweet and motley group of kids, the film navigates the stages of what Campbell dubbed “The Hero’s Journey”: the challenges, the fears, the dragons, the battles, and the return home as a changed person. Rooted in deeply personal accounts and timeless stories, Finding Joe shows how Campbell’s work is relevant and essential in today’s world and how it provides a narrative for how to live a fully realized life — or as Campbell would simply state, how to “follow your bliss.”
- Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? — This is an in-depth investigation to discover the causes and solutions behind Colony Collapse Disorder; a phenomenon where honeybees vanish from their hives, never to return. Queen of The Sun follows the voices and visions of underrepresented beekeepers, philosophers, and scientists around the world, all struggling for the survival of the bees. While other bee films focus exclusively on commercial beekeepers, this film emphasizes the biodynamic and organic communities who have differing opinions from many commercial beekeepers and are overlooked in other films.
- Revenge of the Electric Car – In 2006, thousands of new electric cars were purposely destroyed by the same car companies that built them. Today, less than five years later, the electric car is back…with a vengeance. In Revenge of the Electric Car, director Chris Paine takes his film crew behind the closed doors of Nissan, GM and the Silicon Valley start-up Tesla Motors to chronicle the story of the global resurgence of electric cars. Without using a single drop of foreign oil, this new generation of car is America’s future: fast, furious and cleaner than ever.
- The Big Fix – see description above
- The Last Mountain – In the valleys of Appalachia, a battle is being fought over a mountain. It is a battle with severe consequences that affect every American, regardless of their social status, economic background or where they live. It is a battle that has taken many lives and continues to do so the longer it is waged. It is a battle over protecting our health and environment from the destructive power of Big Coal.
Impact Award: Forks Over Knives
The documentary Forks Over Knives is having the type of impact a transformational film is made for. First Russell Brand went vegan, then Ozzy Osbourne. Dancing with Stars Carrie Ann Inaba and her fiancé went vegetarian. Now, actress Eliza Dushku is jumping into the world of plant-based foods.
Inspiration Award: Sing Your Song
While it has not gotten much distribution yet, a film that premiered at Sundance last year was so moving that it wins the 2011 Inspiration Award. Sing Your Song tells the story of Harry Belefonte’s challenges with segregation and how he rose above those challenges to become a champion for justice for all.
Copyright © 2012 Gary Tomchuk. All Rights Reserved.