Movie Review: Dirt! The Movie

Sometimes, even the wildest gardener needs a reminder: soil is life and life is soil.

Growing up in Iowa, about 80 miles from the mighty Mississippi, I took soil for granted. What did I know? It was deep. It was black. Stuff grew in it.

Apparently, I was in good company when it came to paying no special heed to dirt. Sometime just past the middle of the last century, the first “green revolution” swept through the country. Petrochemical fertilizer replaced cow poo on Iowa’s fields. So?

Well, the soil became depleted and started to die. So?

With enough fertlizer and water, food crops will grow in the thin soils of the desert. Why should I care if the dirt in Iowa dies?

Decades later, the answer to that question is getting around.

Dirt! The Movie is a kaleidoscopic documentary that plays on the heart like a romance.

The opening scenes, introducing us to the impressive line-up of soil experts and activists, are full of beauty, humor, and whimsy. Children in India dance in the dirt, throwing it in the air with glee. A wine officianado cups a precious handful and dabs his tongue in it. We meet earthworms and mushrooms. It’s a dizzying, giddy love-fest.

Then, kaboom! Scene upon scene of dirt in trouble, dirt defiled, dirt imprisoned beneath concrete. We are warned: throughout history, human civilizations rose and fell in accordance with how they treated dirt.

Thank goodness, this is not where the movie ends. The closing scenes give us hopeful examples of people of many stripes entering a mutually healing relationship with soil.

Only 80 minutes long, visually stunning, and appealing to both our practical and visionary drives, I highly recommend it.