Docurama // 2009 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // March 27th, 2010
"Since the beginning of time, of all the planets of all the galaxies in all the universe, only one has a living, breathing skin called dirt."
When you get a chance to review a DVD called Dirt! The Movie, you've got to go for it, even realizing that it could backfire and...well, be as dull as dirt. Actually, Dirt! isn't all that dull. Who could resist a movie that reminds viewers that, thanks to the constant recycling of water on Earth, "dinosaur pee" is still present in every glass of the stuff you drink? Somewhere in Heaven, W.C. Fields is saying, "I told you so."
The story of dirt got lively when microscopic organisms crawled out of the oceans, forming "the matrix of life on Earth." From there, viewers learn about the Dust Bowl, heat sinks, rooftop gardens, strip mining, dirt homes, microbial fuel cells, and a program that puts ex-cons to work bringing greenery to New York City.
Dirt! The Movie was inspired by a book by Bill Logan, and he was inspired by the story of Clyde's pickup. The truck went back to nature when the handyman was sidelined by a fall. By the time he recovered, there was a garden in the back of his truck. This story, and several others, are illustrated through animation. The animation also provides lots of cute little dirt microorganisms. At least the documentarians seem to think they're cute.
If you ignore the cartoon microorganisms (which I highly recommend), Dirt! The Movie has some interesting moments as it shows people building dirt homes or follows the Rikers Island veterans at their new jobs. One scene, which featured poor Haitians baking dirt cookies to fill their stomachs, hit home even more because of the recent earthquake. There's some green rhetoric, but the movie usually shows, rather than tells, demonstrating how the projects featured affect the quality of life.
There are a few oddball moments as well. When a wine expert explained that he eats dirt as part of his research, I found myself speculating about what wines pair well with dirt. A nice chablis, perhaps? I also suspect the Travel Channel is planning to sign him up for a dirt tasting tourism show.
I didn't find any problems with the picture or sound.
In the interest of avoiding waste, excess material is recycled into the DVD extras. There are 83 minutes of interviews, with extended comments from author Bill Logan, Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, agro-ecologist Miguel Altieri, activist/physicist Vandana Shiva, Biomimicry Institute founder Janine Benyus, TreePeople founder Andy Lipkis, Okanagon Indian land speaker Jeanette Armstrong, professor of environmental studies David Orr, and Thomas Linzey, who calls himself "dirt's lawyer" in his quest for nature's rights. This part is longer than the movie, but you'll find a few interesting sprouts of information about antibiotics in the dirt or the importance of urban farming in Argentina and Cuba. You'll also find out just how excited Logan can get when talking about dirt. There are dull moments in this section as well, but it's still worth a look if you liked the movie. Also, six documentary segments and three animated parts are expanded in the bonus features, and text biographies profile director/producers Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow. An unimpressive trailer rounds out the package.
If you can get over the possibility that dinosaurs might have relieved themselves in your water (or at least take solace in the fact that you usually boil it for coffee or tea), dig in. You might find treasure in Dirt!.
Not guilty. Dirt! stood well in its own defense.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Text Bios