Sustainability Film Series

The Institute on the Environment, the Bell Museum, University Services Office of Sustainability and University Dining Services host a Sustainability Film Series from February to May. Films are selected to reflect issues that resonate with University students, faculty and staff.

Each film is presented with a panel of experts who provide local, professional and personal insight into the issues addressed in the films in dialogue with the audience and related sustainability campus student groups. The goal is also for viewers to leave more informed, inspired and equipped with concrete actions to take in their lives and communities. Sustainably sourced food or snacks are served before each film.

Follow the Sustainability Studies program on Facebook and Twitter to learn about upcoming films and activities. Email if you think a film would be a good opportunity for your student group to table and connect with the audience.

Special Fall 2019 Film

DisemPOWERed: Puerto Rico’s Perfect Storm

November 4, 2019 | Time: 6:00 – 8:30 PM | Free admission

Location: Smith Hall Auditorium Room 100

Program Schedule

6:00-6:30pm – Food and networking

6:30-7:30pm – Film screening

7:30-8:30pm – Discussion

In the fall of 2017 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, wiping out the electric grid and plunging 3 million people into the worst blackout in US history. Roughly 3,000 people died in the months after the storm and thousands lived in the dark for nearly a year.

How could this happen? Join us for a film screening and conversation with filmmaker Sandy Smith-Nonini and Dr. Cecilio Ortiz García, from the National Institute of Energy and Island Sustainability at the University of Puerto Rico about the root causes behind the longest blackout in U.S. history.

Watch the trailer! More info can be found here.

Want more time with Dr. Sandy Smith-Nonini or Prof. Cecilio Ortiz Garcia?
Join us for coffee and dessert on Monday, November 4, 4–5 p.m. with Dr. Sandy Smith-Nonini (Humphrey School, Room 30) and/or for a Brown Bag Lunch (desert provided!) on Tuesday, November 5, 12–1:30 p.m. with Dr. Cecilio Ortiz Garcia at the Institute on the Environment, Learning and Env. Sciences, Bldg, Room 350.

Thank you for the Rain

February 14, 2019 | Time: 6:00 – 9:00 PM | Free admission

Location: Molecular and Cellular Biology, Room 3-120

Program Schedule
Food and Tabling from local and campus environmental groups | 6:00 – 6:30 PM
Film Showing | 6:30 – 8:00 PM
Panel and Audience Discussion | 8:00 – 8:30 PM

Five years ago Kisilu, a Kenyan farmer, started to use his camera to capture the life of his family, his village and the damages of climate change. When a violent storm throws him and a Norwegian filmmaker together we see him transform from a father, to community leader to an activist on the global stage at the UN Climate Talks in Paris, COP21.

Thank You For The Rain addresses a range of issues linked to climate change, including climate justice, urbanization, gender equality, education, access to water, climate refugees, and adaptation.

Watch the trailer! More info can be found here.

The panelists include: Paul Porter, UMN Professor with experience in sustainable agriculture, Sam Grant, Environmental Sustainability Program director at HECUA, and a representative from the UMN student delegation that attended COP 24 in Poland.


March 6, 2019 | Time: 6:00 – 9:00 PM | Free admission

Location: 10 Church St SE, Auditorium

Program Schedule
Food and Tabling from local and campus environmental groups 
Film Showing
Panel and Audience Discussion

Through harsh chemical manufacturing processes and the irresponsible disposal of toxic chemical waste, one of our favorite iconic products has destroyed rivers and impacted the lives of people who count on these waterways for their survival. RiverBlue brings awareness to the destruction of some of the world’s most vital rivers through the manufacturing of our clothing, but will also act as a demand for significant change in the textile industry from the top fashion brands that can make a difference.

Watch the trailer! More info can be found here.

Death by Design

April 17, 2019 | Time: 6:00 – 8:00 PM

Admission: Free for UMN Students | Free with Bell admission

Location: Bell Museum, St. Paul

Program Schedule
Food and Tabling from local and campus environmental groups | 6:00 – 6:15 PM
Film Showing | 6:15 – 7:30 PM
Panel and Audience Discussion | 7:30 – 8:00 PM

Consumers love – and live on – their smartphones, tablets and laptops. A cascade of new devices pours endlessly into the market, promising even better communication, non-stop entertainment and instant information. By 2020, four billion people will have a personal computer. Five billion will own a mobile phone.

But this revolution has a dark side, hidden from most consumers. In a global investigation, filmmaker Sue Williams investigates the underbelly of the electronics industry and reveals how even the smallest devices have deadly environmental and health costs. From the intensely secretive factories in China, to a ravaged New York community and the high tech corridors of Silicon Valley, the film tells a story of environmental degradation, of health tragedies, and the fast approaching tipping point between consumerism and sustainability.

Watch the trailer! More info can be found here.

Special Fall 2017 Film!

The Price of Free

November 14, 2018 | 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM | Free admission

St. Paul Student Center Theater
2017 Buford Ave, St. Paul MN 55108

Program Schedule
Pizza available while supplies last | 5:30 – 6:00
Film Showing | 6:00 – 7:30
Panel and Audience Discussion | 7:30 – 8:00

CFANS’ Environment House Living Learning Community is hosting a free film screening to bring awareness about child slavery. Over 100 million children, from the U.S. to India, are forced into labor, violence and trafficking. However, young people all over the world are standing up to this violence and demanding freedom, safety and education for all children. On November 14, there will be film screenings all over the world of The Price of Free. The film follows true stories of children rescued from child labor in India and their journey to freedom. The film tells the story of how a team in India has freed more than 86,000 children from forced labor and slavery, and how we can end child labor for good. It is a call to action for a world where every child is free, safe, and educated.

Past Films

Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas

April 4th, 2018 | 6:00 PM – 8:20 PM | Free admission

3 – 120, Molecular and Cellular Biology Building
420 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Program Schedule
Food and Tabling from local and campus environmental groups | 6:00 – 6:30
Film Showing | 6:30 – 7:50
Panel and Audience Discussion | 7:50 – 8:20

Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas is a documentary film that explores the issue of land grabbing through foreign land investments and exposes their impacts on local farmer’s lives in Ethiopia. The film showcases perspectives of investors, bureaucrats, journalists, environmentalists and especially the small farmers who have been forcibly evicted from their ancestral land and have lost their livelihoods. In the commercial rush for farmland, Ethiopia is the “new green gold”, but at what cost?


March 7th, 2018 | 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM | Free admission

Former Bell Museum Auditorium
10 Church St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Program Schedule
Food and Tabling from local and campus environmental groups | 6:00 – 6:30
Film Showing | 6:30 – 7:45
Panel and Audience Discussion | 7:45 – 8:30 pm

29 men were killed in Appalachia’s coal country when an errant spark ignited the methane leak in the Upper Big Branch mine in 2010. Overburden tells the story of two women whose lives are deeply affected in the aftermath of this explosion and how they unite to take down a powerful coal company in America. In the words of the director, Overburden aims “to spark conversation that can move beyond the expected and polarizing debates and allow viewers to access an empathetic view of a people and a place that few Americans truly understand.”

City of Trees

February 8th, 2018 | 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM | Free admission

Former Bell Museum Auditorium
10 Church St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Program Schedule
Food and Tabling from local and campus environmental groups | 6:00 – 6:30
Film Showing | 6:30 – 8:00
Panel and Audience Discussion | 8:00 – 8:45

City of Trees is a film that explores the complex realities of environmental initiatives through the lens of social justice. It follows the story of three individuals employed by a non-profit that aims to better communities in Washington D.C. by improving parks via tree plantation. With this seemingly simple and well-intentioned goal at the center, City of Trees offers the viewers a way to understand the various intricacies of race, class, gender roles and environmental justice that play a role in urban development.

Luen Hai: Decoding the connection

November 9th, 2017 | 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM | Free admission

Bell Museum Auditorium
10 Church St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Program Schedule
Food and Tabling from local and campus environmental groups | 6:00 – 6:30
Film Showing | 6:30 – 7:00
Panel and Audience Discussion | 7:00 – 8:00

Come learn about how America’s addiction to technology impacts the environment and people around the world in this film created by a group of 20 students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota! Read more about them here.

This is the first film in this year’s Sustainability Film Series. Enjoy the documentary from students at St John’s and St Ben’s Extending the Link student-founded film company, followed by a panel discussion. Panelists include a student producer, industry expert and government leader involved in the Minnesota Right to Repair movement.

Check out the trailer:

The True Cost

Film Screening and Sustainable Fashion Show A collaboration with: U of M and St. Catherine University Apparel Design students, Sol Inspirations and It All Adds Up

April 5th, 2017 | 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM Best Buy Theater – 4th floor of Northrop Auditorium

Program Schedule:

5:00 – 6:00 Light refreshments will be served. Please bring your own serving ware, if possible, to support zero-waste

Tabling and information from student groups

5:00 – 5:30 Sustainable design fashion show by UMN Apparel Design and St. Catherine students and emceed by Alex Detrick, founder and president of Sol Inspirations, a Twin Cities go-to resource center for eco-fashion and ethical style

5:30 – 5:45 Fashion Show judge deliberation

5:45 – 6:00 Fashion Show awards

6:00 – 7:30 Free screening of the documentary True Cost in Best Buy Theater

Before The Flood

February 1st, 2017 | 6:00 PM

Bell Museum Auditorium
10 Church St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Program Schedule
Food and Tabling from local and campus environmental groups | 6:00 – 6:30
Film Showing | 6:30 – 8:00
Panel and Audience Discussion | 8:00 – 8:45

Before the Flood, presented by National Geographic, features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. He goes on expeditions with scientists uncovering the reality of climate change and meets with political leaders fighting against inaction. With unprecedented access to thought leaders around the world, DiCaprio searches for hope in a rising tide of catastrophic news.

Stay for the panel and audience discussion about local initiatives and ways to be a part of the solution and build stronger communities

Panel Speakers:

Muhammad Jiwa, Outreach Coordinator for Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light

Luke Hollenkamp, City of Minneapolis Sustainability Coordinator

Jothsna Harris, Public Engagement Manager for Climate Generation

Elizabeth Braatz, U of M Senior in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management/Pres. of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences

Catching the Sun

March 2nd, 2017 | 6:00 PM

Bell Museum Auditorium

Speaker: Shalini Kantayya, Catching the Sun Filmmaker

Through the stories of workers and entrepreneurs in the U.S. and China, Catching the Sun captures the global race to lead the clean energy future. Over the course of a solar jobs training program, Catching the Sun follows the hope and heartbreak of unemployed American workers seeking jobs in the solar industry.  With countries like China investing in innovative technologies and capitalizing on this trillion-dollar opportunity, Catching the Sun tells the story of the global energy transition from the perspective of workers and entrepreneurs building solutions to income inequality and climate change with their own hands.

Program Schedule
Food and tabling from local and campus environmental groups | 6:00 – 6:30
Film Showing | 6:30 – 7:40
Filmmaker Q&A with audience | 7:40 – 8:30