Subject Guides

Documentaries

Documentaries

 

  • American Casino chronicling the subprime‐mortgage mess and the financial collapse of the past two years
  • Born into Brothels: filmmaker visits children in brothels in Calcutta, gives them cameras to learn photography; transformative power; issues of globalization; women/children
  • Bowling for Columbine: Michael Moore film about gun control/violence/culture
  • Chicks in White Satin: chronicles the marriage of two women and examines the fight for gay marriage.
  • Children in America's Schools: examines the disparities of money/resources/teachers in public schools.
  • Capitalism: A Love Story: Michael Moore’s examination of the recent financial meltdown, Wall Street banking, and the politics involved.
  • Defending Our Lives: female victims of domestic violence who killed their spouse/boyfriend and ended up in jail. Social justice/women’s rights.
  • Drowned Out: this documentary tells the true story of one family's inspired stand against the destruction of their land, homes, and culture. The villagers had three choices: Move to the slums in the city; relocate to a barren resettlement site with no drinking water; or stay at home and drown.
  • Emmitt Till Case: acclaimed film with interviews about the 1950s case of a black teen killed for talking to a white girl
  • Eyes on the Prize series: acclaimed series on the Civil Rights movement
  • Fahrenheit 9/11: Michael Moore takes a critical look at the war in Iraq and Bush policies
  • Food, Inc. Lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing how our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profits ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers, and our own environment.
  • Inconvenient Truth: Al Gore’s award winning film about the climate crisis
  • The Killing Ground: ABC news documentary about the disaster at the Love Canal in 1978.
  • Killing Us Softly: excellent 30 minute film on advertising and women’s body image; powerful
  • Merchants of Cool DVD S444
  • Moms Rising: Documentary about Equal Wages: 45 min. confronts health care and issues that plague low-income families and issues women/mothers face about pay equity/time/life balance
  • Paper Clips: follows a school in Tennessee that learns about diversity through a Holocaust project that garners world attention
  • Pete Seeger: The Power of Song: role of music in social transformation/social justice.
  • Planet Earth: beautiful series on the natural world; environmental change; human role/relationship
  • Prom Night in Mississippi: a school works to have its first integrated prom. Great movie about overt and covert prejudices; powerful.
  • Pursuit of Equality: SF Mayor Gavin Newson Decided To Issue Same Sex Licenses In 2004. Film Focuses On The Compelling Human Rights Struggle Surrounding Same-Sex Marriage. This Is The Only Film Footage In The Mayors Chambers During This Historical Event
  • Shut Up and Sing: Dixie Chicks: about the censoring of the musical group after they criticized President Bush; confronts issues of free speech; role of dissent; sexism; power of media; role of fear in society.
  • Sicko: Michael Moore film about the health care industry
  • Spike Lee, When the Levees Broke: powerful series about the aftermath of Katrina; issues of race/politics/social justice
  • The Beauty Academy of Kabul: an American goes help Afghan women open beauty salons; issues of cultural/women/globalization
  • The Corporation: This charts the spectacular rise of the corporation as a dramatic pervasive presence in our everyday lives. Features interviews with Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore.
  • Tough Guise: excellent 30 min. film on issues of masculinity post-Vietnam; hyper-masculinity and violence; great to discuss media/gender
  • Walmart: documentary about the corporation; issues of globalization; policy; labor
  • Wetback: The Undocumented Documentary: Filmmaker follows two friends traveling on an extremely dangerous journey from Central to North America. They encounter gangs and vigilantes as well as border patrol. But these immigrants navigate real-life nightmares with uncanny calm, grace and even humor in their perilous pursuit of the a better life
  • Who Killed the Electric Car examination of corporate, government and consumer role in the failure of the electric car development and sales
Feature Movies
  • Akeelah and the Bee: eleven-year-old girl from south Los Angeles with a gift for words. Despite the objections of her mother , she enters various spelling contests and earns her an opportunity to compete for a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee and in turn unites her neighborhood who witness the courage and inspiration of one amazing little girl. 
  • All the President’s Men: classic drama about Watergate; power of the press
  • Bread and Roses: group of immigrant workers who take a stand against the million dollar corporations. Newly arrived illegal immigrant Maya has just joined her sister on the job as a janitor in a LA and sees the unfair working conditions
  • Brokeback Mountain: hidden gay relationship in rural town in the 1960s
  • Color Purple: based on Alice Walker book about family, racism, relationships; social justice
  • Crash: exploration of the interlocking lives of a dozen Los Angeles residents--black, white, latino, Asian, and Persian. A district attorney gets car-jacked by an oddly sociological pair of young black men); a rich black T.V. director gets pulled over by a white racist cop; detectives investigate a white cop who shot a black cop--these are only three of the interlocking stories that reach up and down class lines.
  • Crossing Over: Harrison Ford is on a quest for justice as an immigrations agent investigating the case of a missing illegal. In a cross-fire of crime and bureaucracy, fraud and murder, he must race against time to try to save a family from becoming collateral damage in the fight for the American dream
  • Dangerous Minds: based on true story of inner city math teacher transforming lives of students
  • Dead Man Walking: about death row inmate. Critically acclaimed. Social Justice
  • Dead Poet’s Society: Robin Williams drama; power of education; inspiration;
  • El Norte: acclaimed film; Brother and sister Enrique and Rosa flee persecution at home in Guatemala and journey north, through Mexico and on to the United States, with the dream of starting a new life.
  • Erin Brockovich: Based on a true story. Julia Roberts plays Erin Brockovich, a small-town gal who takes on electrical company PG&E after coming across suspicious medical records from a nearby town. It's that rare tale of David taking on Goliath, and winning.
  • Freedom Writers: about a teacher in inner-city school who reaches students divided by race/gangs/ethnicity. Good to discuss school systems; challenges; complexity of racism
  • Frida: product of humble beginnings, Frida Kahlo (Hayek) earns fame as a talented artist with a unique vision. And from her enduring relationship with her mentor and husband, Diego Rivera. Transformative power of art. Good also to discuss gender. 
  • Gangs of New York: story of poor immigrants in NY in the 19th century; great movie about becoming American; violent.
  • Girl, Interrupted: After a botched suicide attempt, a girl meets other troubled women in a psychiatric hospital. Issues of identity/acceptance/difference.
  • Good Night, Good Luck: examines the role of Edward R. Murrow in exposing the injustice in McCarthy hearings. Great film about dissent/free press/power of government/civil liberties.
  • Good Will Hunting: The most brilliant mind at America's top university isn't a student ... he's the kid who cleans the floors! Will Hunting (Damon) is a headstrong, working-class genius who's failing the lessons of life.
  • Gran Torino: A disgruntled Korean War vet, Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), sets out to reform his neighbor, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal Kowalski's prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino; discusses multiculturalism/racism/stereotyping.
  • Gracie: story of a girl whose school forbids her to play on the boys soccer; confronts school policy, gender stereotypes, etc. Good to discuss gender equity, Title IX.
  • Hotel Rwanda: true story of one man's brave stance against savagery during the 1994 Rwandan conflict. Good to discuss globalization/world & US response/humanitarian aid in world society.
  • I am Sam: film about a mentally-challenged father who enlists the aid of a high-powered attorney to help him regain custody of his daughter. Great about discussing difference/acceptance
  • If These Walls Could Talk, VI & II. Acclaimed series follows a house through three different generations of occupants as a way to examine change over time: Volume 1 examines the issue of abortion (1950s, 1970s, 1990s) Volume II examines gay/lesbian rights (1960s, 1970s, 2000s)
  • John Q: powerful drama about a father who takes extreme measures to save his son's life when his insurance company refuses to cover his heart transplant surgery
  • Kinsey: drama based on the life of Alfred Kinsey; This provocative drama dares to lift the veil of shame from a society in which sex was hidden, knowledge was dangerous and talking about it was the ultimate taboo.
  • Kramer v. Kramer: breakthrough film of family, divorce, motherhood; identity
  • Milk: acclaimed movie about the life and death of SF Supervisor Harvey Milk; about tolerance; hate speech; gay rights
  • Mississippi Burning: based on the 1960s murder of 3 college students during Freedom summer. Social justice/racism/civil rights.
  • Mona Lisa Smile: film about female college students in the 1950s. Great to discuss gender roles/education/1950s myth/conformity vs. individuality
  • Moscow on the Hudson: Robin William’s comedy: a Russian circus saxophonist, defects from his touring troupe in Bloomingdale's in New York. He moves into the crowded Harlem flat of a black security guard and begins to adjust to life in the USA
  • Mr. Holland’s Opus: Richard Dreyfus movie about a music teacher who transforms lives.
  • Norma Rae: classic movie with Sally Field about a female union organizer. Labor rights/women’s rights
  • Northcountry: A single mother with two children to support, she turns to the predominant source of employment in the region - the iron mines. 
  • Outsourced: smart look at the effect of cultural difference on work, friendship and love, and the global economy’s impact on national and personal identity
  • Philadelphia: Young lawyer confronting AIDS diagnosis; great movie about cultural biases
  • Pleasantville: look at a 21st century teen who goes back to what he thinks is the idyllic 1950s through the magic of tv. Great to discuss conformity v. individuality; civil liberties; social pressures.
  • Quiz Show
  • Recount: based on the disputed 2000 Presidential election results in Florida. 
  • Revolutionary Road: about 1950s marriage; stifling gender roles/social expectations in suburban life.
  • Ron Clark Story real-life inspiration Ron Clark, a passionate and innovative teacher who leaves his small hometown to teach in one of Harlem's toughest schools. But to break through to his students, Clark must use unconventional methods, including his ground-breaking classroom rules, to drive them toward their greatest potential
  • Slumdog Millionaire: A Mumbai teen who grew up in the slums becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and we learn about his life history. Good to discuss cultural stereotypes/issues of globalization/world poverty.
  • Stand and Deliver: based on a true story about an LA math teacher who reaches out to students to inspire them to stay in school, etc.
  • Stepford Wives: examines issues of gender/social conformity/sexism in suburbia.
  • The Contender: a woman is about to be nominated to the Vice Presidency; the biases and questions she faces; confronts sexism; gender stereotypes; American values; rights to privacy
  • The Express
  • The Joy Luck Club: based on Amy Tan book; an anthology of stories wrapped in one Chinese-American woman's journey to understand her roots. Great about Americanization; immigration; prejudice.
  • The Kite Runner: based on acclaimed novel about a boy’s journey from war torn Afghanistan to America and back.
  • The Laramie Project: about the killing of a young gay man, Matthew Sheppard
  • The Life of David Gale: Kevin Spacey a anti-death penalty crusader on death row for a rape and murder that he claims he didn't commit.
  • The Lorax: 30 min. animated Dr. Seuss story about the environment; good to use to show evolution of the movement from the 1970s; role of education/children in movement
  • The Soloist: based on a true story of an LA journalist who tries to help a schizophrenic homeless man with a rare gift of the violin. Issues of health care/justice; transformative power of individuals; acceptance.
  • The Visitor: drama about a college professor and recent widower who discovers a pair of homeless, illegal aliens living in his New York apartment. Great about diversity/race/acceptance
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, the film retains a timeless quality that transcends its historically dated subject matter (racism in the Depression-era South) and remains powerfully resonant in present-day America with its advocacy of tolerance, justice, integrity, and loving, responsible parenthood.
  • Towelhead: acclaimed movie about a young Lebanese-American girl who struggles with her sexual obsession, a bigoted Army reservist and her strict father during the Gulf War
  • Trade: When 13-year-old Adriana is kidnapped by sex traffickers in Mexico City, her 17-year-old brother, Jorge, sets off on a desperate mission to save her. As Jorge dodges overwhelming obstacles to track the girl's abductors, he meets Ray (Kevin Kline), a Texas cop whose own family loss leads him to become an ally. TRADE is a thrilling story of courage and a devastating exposure of one of the world's most heinous crimes
  • Transamerica: acclaimed story of a transgendered woman about to have her sex change operation to biologically be a woman who learns on the eve of her operation that she fathered a son who is now a teen in trouble. They go on a cross-country journey. Great about identity/acceptance.
Global Issues

Documentaries

  • Daughters of Afghanistan: tracks the lives of 5 women after the fall of the Taliban; issues of women's rights.
  • War Dance: Set in war-raved Northern Uganda, the award-winning real-life story about a group of children whose love of music brings into their poverty-stricken lives. Invited to compete in a prestigious music festival in their nation’s capitol, their historic journey is a stirring tale about the power of the human spirit.
  • New Year Baby: award winning about a girl born in a Thai refugee camp on Cambodian New Year, filmmaker Socheata Poeuv grew up in the United States deemed by her family "the lucky one." As a child in the United States, she knew that her parents had survived oppression and genocide under the Khmer Rouge, but they never spoke of it aloud. Twenty-five years later, Socheata travels to Cambodia to learn about her families history.
  • God Grew Tired of Us: An award-winning film, explores the spirit of three "Lost Boys" from the Sudan who are forced to leave their homeland and a relocate to America, where the Lost Boys build active and fulfilling new lives but remain deeply committed to helping friends and family they have left behind.
  • Nightline: Stoning a Woman to Death: TV investigative report about a 2003 stoning case in Nigeria.
  • Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion this award-winning documentary was filmed during a remarkable nine journeys throughout Tibet, India and Nepal. rarely-seen rituals in remote monasteries, to horse races with Khamba warriors; from brothels and slums in the holy city of Lhasa, to the magnificent Himalayan peaks still traveled by nomadic yak caravans. Personal stories and interviews, and a collection of undercover and archival images never before assembled in one film.
  • The Corporation: This charts the spectacular rise of the corporation as a dramatic pervasive presence in our everyday lives. Features interviews with Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore.
  • Born into Brothels: filmmaker visits children in brothels in Calcutta, gives them cameras to learn photography; transformative power; issues of globalization; women/children
  • Reporter: A feature documentary about Nicholas Kristoff, who travelled to the Congo to shed light on the conflict, in hopes of making the rest of the world take notice.
  • The Beauty Academy of Kabul: an American woman helps Afghan women train and open their own beauty salons; issues of women/acculturation/globalization
  • Into the Arms of Strangers: The story of 10000 children saved from Hitler and placed with foster parents and hostels in Great Britain at the outbreak of WWII. Filled with spellbinding never-before-seen archival footage and the decades-later remembrance of both the rescuers and the rescued.

 

Movies

 

  • Babel:  a tragic incident involving an American couple in Morocco sparks a chain of events for four families in different countries throughout the world. In the struggle to overcome isolation, fear, and displacement, each character discovers that it is family that ultimately provides solace
  • Catch a Fire: apartheid thriller that tells the story of a South African wrongly accused, in 1980, of sabotaging the oil refinery where he worked. After both he and his wife are tortured by agents of the Boer government, he becomes a radicalized guerilla for the MK, or military wing, of the African National Congress
  • Cinema Paradiso: A famous film director returns home to a Sicilian village for the first time after almost 30 years. He reminisces about his childhood at the Cinema Paradiso here Alfredo, the projectionist, first brought about his love of films. He is also reminded of his lost teenage love, Elena, ho he had to leave before he left for Rome
  • City of God: The streets of the world's most notorious slum, Rio de Janeiro's "City of God," are a place where combat photographers fear to tread, police rarely go, and residents are lucky if they live to the age of 20. In the midst of the oppressive crime and violence, a frail and scared young boy will grow up to discover that he can view the harsh realities of his surroundings with a different eye: the eye of an artist. In the face of impossible odds, his brave ambition to become a professional photographer becomes a window into his world ... and ultimately his way out!
  • Gods Must Be Crazy: For five thousand years things have stayed pretty much the same for Xi and his fellow Bushmen. Then one day an empty Coke bottle drops magically from the sky and life goes topsy-turvy.
  • Hotel Rwanda: true story of one man's brave stance against savagery during the 1994 Rwandan conflict. Good to discuss globalization/world & US response/humanitarian aid in world society.
  • House of Sand and Fog: two strangers (white and Iranian) whose conflicting pursuits of the American Dream lead to a fight for their hopes at any cost. What begins as a struggle over a rundown bungalow spirals into a clash that propels everyone involved toward a shocking resolution.
  • Last King of Scotland: This is Amin's incredible story as seen through the eyes of a young Scotsman who becomes the volatile leader's personal physician. Seduced by Amin's charisma and blinded by decadence, Garrigan's dream life becomes a waking nightmare of betrayal and madness from which there is no escape. Inspired by real people and events, this gripping, suspenseful stunner is filled with performances you will never forget
  • Motorcycle Diaries: about the young Che Guevara (later to become a militant revolutionary) is half buddy-movie, half social commentary. An inspirational adventure based on the true story of two young men whose thrilling and dangerous road trip across Latin America becomes a life-changing journey of self-discovery
  • Nowhere in Africa: is a story about love about family about leaving one home to create another. Spanning two continents it's the true tale of a Jewish attorney and his family who flee the Nazi regime in 1938 for a remote farm in Kenya. As the war rages on the other side of the world his relationships with his wife and daughter become increasingly complicated: they struggle between resisting and embracing their new life while reaching out to each other.
  • Outsourced: smart look at the effect of cultural difference on work, friendship and love, and the global economy’s impact on national and personal identity
  • Sin Nombre: critically acclaimed movie… Seeking the promise of America, a beautiful young woman, Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), joins her father on an odyssey to cross the gauntlet of the Latin American countryside. Along the way, she crosses paths with a teenaged Mexican gang member, El Casper (Edgar M. Flores), who is maneuvering to outrun his violent past. Together they have to rely on faith, trust and street smarts if they are to survive their increasingly perilous journey towards the hope of new lives.
  • Slumdog Millionaire: A Mumbai teen who grew up in the slums becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and we learn about his life history. Good to discuss cultural stereotypes/issues of globalization/world poverty.
  • The Constant Gardener: In a remote area of Northern Kenya activist Tessa Quayle is found brutally murdered. Using his privileged access to diplomatic secrets, her husband he will risk his own life stopping at nothing to uncover and expose the truth - a conspiracy more far-reaching and deadly than Quayle could ever have imagined. Good to discuss corporate issues/globalizaton
  • The Kite Runner: based on acclaimed novel about a boy’s journey from war torn Afghanistan to America and back.
  • The Quiet American: Set in early 1950s Vietnam, a young American (Fraser) becomes entangled in a dangerous love triangle when he falls for the beautiful mistress of a British journalist (Caine). As war is waged around them, these three only sink deeper into a world of drugs, passion, and betrayal where nothing is as it seems. Based on the classic novel by Graham Greene
  • The Visitor: drama about a college professor and recent widower who discovers a pair of homeless, illegal aliens living in his New York apartment. Great about diversity/race/acceptance
  • Towelhead: acclaimed movie about a young Lebanese-American girl who struggles with her sexual obsession, a bigoted Army reservist and her strict father during the Gulf War
  • Whale Rider: There is a legend that Paikea rode on the back of a whale and led his people to New Zealand. Since that time tradition has decreed that the first-born male descendant will become chief of the tribe. Then Pai is born...and she is a girl. She grows up within a close-knit village which retains the tribes traditional spiritual relationship with the sea and their warrior values. Although loved by all, Pai faces rejection from her grandfather, Koro, who is brokenhearted that there is no grandson to carry on the line
Environment

See website: http://www.grinningplanet.com/6001/environmental-movies.htm

 Documentaries

  • A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash(2006): This documentary looks at our addiction to oil and the inevitable chaos that's sure to ensue once it runs out. The film outlines the challenge while highlighting our desperate need for an alternative energy source.
  • An Inconvenient Truth (2006): It’s an obvious pick, but this doc is a great primer on global warming. Its message is sobering, true, but Gore says that if we act boldly, quickly, and wisely, we can solve this climate crisis.
  • Drowned Out: this documentary tells the true story of one family's inspired stand against the destruction of their land, homes, and culture. The villagers had three choices: Move to the slums in the city; relocate to a barren resettlement site with no drinking water; or stay at home and drown.
  • Earth Days: Seeds of Revolution: a history of earth day and the environmental movement
  • Encounters at the End of the World: Welcome to Antarctica - like you've never experienced it. You've seen the extraordinary marine life, the retreating glaciers and, of course, the penguins, but leave it to award-winning, iconoclastic filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn) to be the first to explore the South Pole's most fascinating inhabitants...humans. In this one-of-kind documentary, Herzog turns his camera on a group of remarkable individuals, "professional dreamers" who work, play and struggle to survive in a harsh landscape of mesmerizing, otherworldly beauty - perhaps the last frontier on earth
  • Flow (limited showing in theaters): This award winning documentary builds a case against the growing privatization of the world's fresh water supply, asking the question, “Can anyone really own water?
  • Heat(available online): This Frontline documentary investigates how the world's largest corporations and governments are responding to Earth's looming environmental disaster and examines whether major corporations and governments are up to the challenge.
  • Planet Earth(2007): This Emmy-winning series travels the world to show the connection between all animals, big or small. The beautifully scenic shots alone will give you a renewed appreciation for all things great and small.
  • Planet in Peril (2007): Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Jeff Corwin travel 13 countries in this two-part documentary on some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, including global warming, species extinction, and water pollution.
  • The 11th Hour (2007) : When dealing with the global warming crisis, think big. That’s the message behind this global warming documentary that offers exciting and radical solutions from leading scientists and innovators to help save the planet from total climate catastrophe.
  • The End of Suburbia (2004):The white picket fence never seemed so threatening. This documentary takes a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of suburbia, and asks whether this lifestyle can ever be truly sustainable.
  • The Killing Ground: ABC news documentary about the disaster at the Love Canal in 1978.
  • Trashed: This is the story of garbage...American Style Documentar investigation of the garbage business and American lifestyle of consumerism.
  • Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) : If you think that electric cars are a new idea, think again. This documentary goes back to the mid-90s to dig out the GM EV1 electric car, a popular green vehicle quickly buried by auto industries and greedy politicians.

 

Movies

A Civil Action (1998): In this true story, John Travolta defies stereotypes about out-for-themselves personal injury lawyers. Sticking his own neck out, he sues a major corporation for contaminating a town’s drinking water with industrial solvents.

  • Erin Brokovich (2000): Based on a true story, Julia Roberts plays Erin Brockovich, a small-town gal who takes on chemical company PG&E after coming across suspicious medical records from a nearby town. It’s that rare tale of David taking on Goliath, and winning.
  • Silkwood(1983) : The true-life account of Karen Silkwood (played by Meryl Streep), an Oklahoma nuclear plant worker who blew the whistle on her company’s dangerous practices, then mysteriously “disappeared.”
  • Wall-E : This computer-animated science fiction tale is a futuristic look at an Earth that’s so polluted by mass consumerism, humans actually had to leave it. Wall-E clearly has an environmental agenda, but it gets the message across without preaching. 
Maps & Directories

Mailing Address

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1928 Saint Mary's Road
Moraga, CA 94575
(925) 631-4000
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