This article first appeared in our spring ’18 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Conscious Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 04 May 2018. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
This September, a documentary will hit cinemas in the UK – and there’s a fair chance it will make you think a bit differently about your impact in the world.
Down to Earth doesn’t stand alone as a catalyst; its special event-based approach creates opportunities for follow up, starting with a dialogue in the cinema. It may inspire dramatic changes in your lifestyle, but at the very least it will almost certainly help you become more connected and gain a better understanding of your part in the bigger picture.
This is what Rolf Winters and Renata Heinen were looking for when they broke away from their busy London lives 10 years ago. They took their three young children out of school to live a more connected life in the woods of Upper Michigan, where they lived with a clan of Native Americans.
‘I had a hard time entering my children into a system I didn’t trust’, Renata explains. ‘I wondered, what do I really want to leave to my children? And how do I answer my grandchildren when they later ask me what I did to prevent the destruction of the rainforest or the acidification of the oceans?’
Listening to Earth Keepers
An experiment at first, Rolf and Renata stayed for four years, living off the land, growing their own food and teaching their children through the richness of Nature. It was not until they met Nowaten (‘he who listens’), a reclusive medicine man and teacher of the tribe, that they decided to film their encounters.
‘It felt like the discovery of a hidden treasure’, Rolf remembers. ‘The perfect antidote for the virus that mankind has become to the planet. We knew we had to capture this source of wisdom we had found.’
For both Rolf and Renata, it soon became clear they should find and record other so-called ‘Earth Keepers’ in different parts of the world. The family went on an epic journey around the world, and for a year they lived with tribal communities across six continents. They were able to access wisdom keepers in remote areas because they didn’t come as a film crew; they were just one family with one backpack each and no agenda except to listen.
They were stunned to find that these totally unrelated tribal communities have the same message for humanity. ‘It was very powerful to witness them unravel the enormous, complex problems of our modern world’ Rolf tells us, ‘but also how they see that we as individuals can make a difference.’
The family returned to England with 200 hours of footage, and spent five years editing the film. The result is a mirror to humanity, a cinematic documentary that leaves no viewer untouched.
The film might be so captivating because it wasn’t a planned exercise, but the result of a true exploration of a different perspective on life. ‘Sharing the wisdom and insights of these incredibly connected and humble Earth Keepers helps us see that there is a different story to be told and to be lived’, Rolf says.
Ahead of Down to Earth’s UK release this September, MyGreenPod readers have an opportunity to be part of a pre-premiere screening event, where you’ll get to speak to
the film-makers and hear their story first-hand.
The film-makers didn’t want to be tied by the restraints of the system and decided to take a unorthodox approach to distributing the film. They envisioned cinema screenings with a facilitated dialogue after the film, and wanted to show it in schools, workplaces and corporations. ‘Industry insiders said it wouldn’t work – certainly not without a huge budget’, Rolf tells us. ‘We had none and decided to pilot our off-beat approach in Holland, banking entirely on word of mouth and social media.’
The approach worked better than they could have imagined: Down to Earth has broken records and become the longest running film in the history of Dutch cinema. There have been countless audience and media responses to the phenomenon, and many viewers have made changes in their lives after seeing the film. ‘We want people to work with the film, not consume it ’, says Renata, ‘and that’s what’s happened.’
Now Rolf and Renata want to launch Down to Earth here in the UK, their home turf and the country in which they believe it could have the greatest impact. ‘The UK is diverse, eclectic, rich in culture and ultimately a window to the world’, says Rolf. ‘The film is about seeing your position in all the mayhem and confusion in the world. Now is the time to incite a people-powered change. We are talking environment, community, personal relevance, purpose, economy, all the things we as a society struggle with. The film has a universal language and we believe it can speak to everyone. Down to Earth doesn’t tell you how to live your lives, rather it inspires you to seek your truth. We are all Earth Keepers in the end.’
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