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This well-intentioned, earnest documentary follows a family who did something about that wistful fantasy you might have had about dropping out of the rat race (often cured by a weekend camping, I find). In 2005, Dutch couple Renata Heinen and Rolf Winters moved from east London to a forest in Michigan with their three kids. Four years later, the lot of them went travelling around the globe to find “Earth keepers” – elders and leaders in far-flung places who might reveal the secrets of living a “connected life”.
Down to Earth has been a massive box-office hit in the Netherlands, where the film and its principles are being trialled on the national curriculum in schools. It’s probably a matter of personal taste whether you find its brand of hippy ethno-tourism inspiring or fingernails-down-the-blackboard irritating, as the family bounce from one indigenous community to the next. They live among bushmen in the Kalahari desert and spend two months on a remote island in Australia with an indigenous woman who fosters troubled teenage boys. A tribal leader in Kenya blames unhappiness on consumerism. I lost patience in India as Winters, sitting crossed-legged across from a herbal healer, reverently asks him for the key to living a disease-free life. The healer answers that health comes as a result being your authentic self and “walking your true path”. Nonsense.
Still, it’s a joy watching the family’s young children – hair bleached white by the sun – riding horses in the Andes and messing about with kids in Kenya, living the opposite of a sterilised, risk-free childhood. But I can’t help feeling that with its awe of shamans and mother Earth, this film is looking in the wrong places for answers about the future of urban living. It ignores the more meaningful conversation about making cities greener and healthier, and those of us who live in them a bit happier.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Down to Earth review – breezy eco-doc forsakes hard answers for platitudes | Documentary films