Review: Down to Earth Movie


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Shown as an emotional primer for the political elite at the One Planet Summit on Climate Change in Paris in 2017, Down To Earth is a call to action for all of us to become keepers of the earth. It powerfully communicates the message that our individual well-being and the wellbeing of our planet are one and the same.

Premiering in the UK on 11th September 2018, the film follows a dutch family, Renata Heinen, Rolf Winters and their children, as they embark on a journey to live in a way that will ensure a healthier future for this planet and generations to come. The family pack up their traditional Western lives and set off to Michigan to spend time with the Potawatomi, a Native American forest tribe. Here they meet the inspiring elder of the tribe Nowaten (‘he who listens’). After months spent living with the tribe, Nowaten agrees to let the family interview him for the movie on the condition that the family record similar interviews with other indigenous elders from around the world.

Travelling without a crew, the family are given unique access and insights into the lives of people from the oldest tribe in the world in Namibia, to jungle people in India, communities living in the Australian outback, and elders in Machu Picchu. The leaders of these communities are not simply holding administrative power in their positions, they are medicine people, wisdom keepers, shamans, healers and spiritual leaders. Their power comes from their intimate wisdom of the terrains they inhabit and the people they lead. From their spirit and faith. Though geographically isolated and divided by thousands of miles, the message from all these cultures is remarkably consistent.

The theme we encounter again and again are around learning to live with what is provided by nature. By learning to live with the seasons whether this brings abundance or scarcity we establish psychological balance. “An empty stomach is full of wisdom”, as one of the elders puts it. We are shown how the natural habitat and spiritual resources of the elements offer healing to the sick, each tribe utilising the vegetation and power ritual in their own way given what’s available and what has been passed down to them through the centuries.  

What is remarkable is there is no fear or anxiety in these cultures. Instead, we see community and playfulness. Against the context of their lives, the degree to which our capitalistic societies are making us physically and spiritually sick is starkly evident. If we can heal ourselves, we can heal the world. If we fail to uphold our duty as caretakers of the environment and all its resources for this and future generations we will lose our ability to sustain ourselves.

While this message is undoubtedly grave, the movie carries a gloriously positive tone. It is inspirational to listen to these vibrant and earthly characters and experience their unshaken confidence, their faith that mankind is able to step up to the challenge. Many spiritual traditions speak of an age of destruction which serves as a catalyst for our spiritual and psychological development. While we are shown rituals and practices from across the world that allude to the sophisticated and profound spiritual understanding of these people, the simplicity of their approach to simply living with greater care and respect for the land and in greater harmony with it instills confidence that we might be able to do the same. How we live can become a daily ceremony. It is up to each of us to figure out how to interpret this message in our own lives.


Natalie C MorrisonComment