Dirt! The Movie is a 2009 expository documentary directed by Gene Rosow and Bill Benenson. Based off the book Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan, the film explores the consequences of our mistreatment of the dirt and soil of the world and our relationship with it.
Most of the film is narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis and by interviews with many people around the world. This is one of the major strengths of the film because we get different perspectives from people from different economic, social, and cultural background. It was interesting to see how different cultures interacted with dirt and why it was a necessity to their way of life. On top of that each interviewer had some sort of strong connection with dirt and the film focused a lot about how we feel about our relationship with our earth and made you appreciate all of the things dirt has done for a species.
While the animations seemed childish at times I felt as if they kept the film somewhat entertaining. Without the cartoons the whole movie would have just been footage of dirt landscapes and the interviews themselves. However, some animations were definitely weaker than others. Parts like the watercolor animation were cool to see unlike the little personified dirt cartoons parading around on screen we saw throughout.
While the film had many different interviews each one was a different topic making the film seem kind of all over the place. The filmmakers obviously tried to make this film accessible to everyone with topics ranging from the history of dirt using cartoonish animations to the dark topic of farmer suicide due to unfertile soil. The movie really generalized these issues and skipped around to different topics. One example was when they started to talk about the Dust Bowl it seemed like the documentary was going to make a big deal about our mistreatment of dirt and how that was a consequence but it barely talked about the event for five minutes.
The documentary also didn’t provide many solutions and when it did it didn’t even mention how feasible it was. The economic and political sides of the issues were not touched upon for the most part. For example, at the part where the lady had a garden on her roof and around her building in a city she talked about how great this is for dirt and the environment but we have no idea how much that would cost or how possible it even is. The film didn’t really touch on the corporation side of the issues either which I feel is an important perspective in environmental documentaries.
While the film has its weaknesses it still introduces an issue that many people don’t really think about in an accessible way. Going into this film I had no idea what they were even going to see about dirt for an hour and a half. However, after my viewing I am much more aware of the issues going on in our soil. The overall message of how we connect ourselves with dirt and our natural world was received Because of this the documentary did its job in educating me even if it didn’t necessarily motivate me.
Written by Matt Allchin