How Lynn Margulis rocked the boat and started a scientific revolution
Explores the life and ideas of Lynn Margulis, a scientific rebel who challenged entrenched theories of evolution to present a new narrative: life evolves through collaboration.
Directed by John Feldman
Produced by Susan Davies
Script, Camera, Editor: John Feldman
Associate Producers: James MacAllister, Regge Life, Global Film Network
Graphic Design: Guido Alvarez
Asst Editors: Alex Marlow, Noah Shearer
Editorial Consultant: Ann Tegnell
Composer: Sheila Silver
Narrator: John Feldman
A Hummingbird Films Production
[Note: Community screenings of SYMBIOTIC EARTH can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"One of the most important biographies of the last 50 years...Everyone who is interested in living things, evolution, or the environment must watch this." Perry Marshall, author, Evolution 2.0
Note: The Consumer DVD and VOD release of this program will be in January 2019.
SYMBIOTIC EARTH explores the life and ideas of Lynn Margulis, a brilliant and radical scientist, whose unconventional theories challenged the male-dominated scientific community and are today fundamentally changing how we look at our selves, evolution, and the environment.
As a young scientist in the 1960s, Margulis was ridiculed when she first proposed that symbiosis was a key driver of evolution, but she persisted. Instead of the mechanistic view that life evolved through random genetic mutations and competition, she presented a symbiotic narrative in which bacteria joined together to create the complex cells that formed animals, plants and all other organisms - which together form a multi-dimensional living entity that covers the Earth. Humans are not the pinnacle of life with the right to exploit nature, but part of this complex cognitive system in which each of our actions has repercussions.
Filmmaker John Feldman traveled globally to meet Margulis' cutting-edge colleagues and continually asked: What happens when the truth changes? SYMBIOTIC EARTH examines the worldview that has led to climate change and extreme capitalism and offers a new approach to understanding life that encourages a sustainable and symbiotic lifestyle.
Note: To inquire about inviting the filmmaker, John Feldman, to take part in your screening in person or via Skype, please contact jfeldman [at] hummingbirdfilms [dot] com.]
Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2018
Copyright Date: 2018
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-00-3
"Symbiotic Earth is the must see biology film of the century...Should be watched widely, by students and teachers in every high school, college and university. The option of purchase for community viewings is perfect. This film has the potential to inspire generations of thinkers, scientists, global citizens, and leaders."
David Morimoto, Chair, Natural Science and Mathematics, Lesley University
"If biology is the study of life, Margulis may have been the ultimate biologist...I think Margulis would have approved of Symbiotic Earth. This is a documentary that breathes...Laypeople will learn something new, and scientists, especially biologists, will be inspired to read the original texts and perhaps look at our own training in a new light."
Katherine Bryant, Science for the People
"Symbiotic Earth offers a fascinating and rewarding educational experience while conveying a key conceptual breakthrough in the life sciences. It will enrich and enliven college and AP high school courses, as well as all of us with an appetite for discovery about life in Earth. This film is of singular importance at this historical moment because it features both a paradigm shift in evolutionary science and the woman scientist whose work made it possible."
Joanna Macy, deep ecologist, Buddhist scholar, Author, Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World
"An amazing film...I was on the edge of my seat the entire film, completely engrossed in the story and the journey of Lynn and her contributions to science and our understanding of life on Planet Earth...It really activated me."
Joshua Fouts, Executive Director, Bioneers
"A great undertaking! Symbiotic Earth is a vivid portrait of a bold scientist who took us to an understanding of evolution very different than any previous one. This film represents an effervescent intelligence leading the way to a revolution in understanding life on Earth."
Thomas E. Lovejoy, 'The Godfather of Biodiversity,' Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University
"Moving and motivating, especially at this phase of my life as a graduate student."
Moamen Elmassry, Ph.D Student, Texas Tech University
"Symbiotic evolution is the primary focus of this documentary, but Feldman also considers its extension to the broader Gaia theory that Margulis formulated with James Lovelock, about how living organisms interact with inorganic elements to maintain a habitable environment on Earth. A fine portrait of a visionary thinker, this is highly recommended."
"A life-changing and even world-changing documentary...It is mind-blowing yet down to earth. Who we are, what we are, how we are, this film is the key for the door to the world."
Miaw Ler Sim, student of Medical Anthropology, St. Catherine's College, Oxford University
"This is an extraordinary film about a remarkable scientist. Lynn Margulis deserves to be recognized for her many contributions to evolutionary biology, especially in her insightful discussions of symbiosis. We hope this film will be watched by many people - in classrooms across the country and well beyond."
Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Co-Directors, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, Yale University
"Wonderful film. Informative, engaging, moving and inspiring. Just what a film about a powerful new way of thinking should be."
James Shapiro, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Chicago, Author, Evolution: A View from the 21st Century
"Recommended...The ideas of the late biologist Lynn Margulis are groundbreaking, even breathtaking in their boldness...Revolution is a strong word, but that is what many commentators say Dr. Margulis started in multiple areas of biology, from evolution to genetics to microbiology to ecology, taking broader and more comprehensive views of organisms and their interactions."
Jim Hobbs, Educational Media Reviews Online
"Riveting. A wonderful achievement."
Dr. Douglas Zook, Professor of Ecology, Boston University
"A wonderful film - Symbiotic Earth brings biology to life! This documentary is a concise history of evolutionary biology, a fascinating case study in shifting scientific paradigms, and an informative portrait of the remarkable Lynn Margulis. Clearly presented and accessible, it will appeal to a broad range of viewers, and especially to students and educators in the biological and environmental sciences."
Curt Meine, Senior Fellow, Center for Humans and Nature, The Aldo Leopold Foundation, Author, Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work
"Thoughtful and moving...This film should be required of many introductory college courses, from the physical and life sciences to the social sciences."
R. Mark Leckie, Professor of Geology and Earth Systems, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
"Symbiotic Earth conveys one of the most important biographies of the last 50 years. It's no exaggeration to say that Lynn Margulis' contribution to science is in the same league as Jim Watson, Francis Crick, Stephen Hawking and Barbara McClintock...Everyone who is interested in living things, evolution, or the environment must watch this."
Perry Marshall, Author, Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design
"Symbiotic Earth chronicles the brilliant conceptual achievements and exuberant life of Lynn Margulis, the thinker who revolutionized evolutionary biology with her theories of symbiogenesis and Gaia. The documentary footage and first-hand accounts of Margulis's vibrant personality and ideas alone make this a must-watch film for students of both the life sciences and the history of science."
Dr. Sophia Roosth, Associate Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University, Author, Synthetic: How Life Got Made
"It was a wonderful experience to watch and feel its message. The film celebrates the scientific mind the passion of the individual and the bumpy roads that science sometimes requires us to navigate. Your film is just brilliant - like Lynn!"
Julie Brigham-Grette, Professor of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst
"Beautiful and powerful film...The film not only captures Margulis' work so vividly and elegantly, it also left room for some fascinating and nuanced disagreements."
Yarden Katz, Fellow in Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School
"Spectacular...Set into motion by an intellectual challenge from Margulis herself, filmmaker John Feldman takes the viewer on an exhilarating and eye-opening journey through the contemporary currents of evolutionary thought. Symbiotic Earth is a must-see for anyone who wants a short-cut to the leading edge of the life and Earth sciences."
Bruce Clarke, Professor of Literature and Science, Texas Tech University
"Symbiotic Earth leaves us looking at the world in a new light, understanding it better and yet more than ever aware of its essential mystery."
Dr. Robert Sternberg, Science Communication Unit, Imperial College London
"The film bursts with footage of one of the most important biologists since Darwin...We have from Lynn, so vividly present in this film, an account of how evolutionary novelty emerges in the drama of cellular symbiosis. This is the drama of life's history and the narrative of its ongoing possibilities."
Dr. Donna Haraway, Professor Emerita of the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies, University of California - Santa Cruz
"Funny, uplifting, inspiring, intellectually alive, refreshing, challenging and wonderfully informative...This is a movie about a hero and role model for us all...A brilliant description of an enigma, painstakingly untangled and clearly laid out for us all. There are many multifold delights in this film, packed with surprising revelations. It is both intensely personal and broadly insightful! I cannot recommend it highly enough."
Dr. Frederic B. Jennings Jr., President, Center for Ecological Economic and Ethical Education
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The film is divided into ten essays. Each essay may be played individually or you can play them in blocks. We suggest playing the 3-minute Introduction before playing an individual essay, or blocks. The 10 essays are:
* How Lynn Margulis Coerced me into Making this Film [7:23]
* How Science Gave Us Permission to Exploit the Earth [10:28]
* Confronting the Neo-Darwinian Capitalistic Zeitgeist [18:00]
* Lynn Margulis' Lifelong Quest [12:02]
* Working Together [12:17]
* Bacteria Run the Planet [13:42]
* Symbiosis is the Way of Life [16:00]
* The Cell (not DNA) Controls the Organism [10:48]
* Evolution through Mergers [20:00]
* Gaia: A Physiological System on the Surface of the Earth [14:31]
Language Subtitle Options:
English (SDH Captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing)
Host a community screening
Comprehensive 86-page Study Guide by Dorion Sagan and John Feldman includes for each film essay:
* Detailed Synopsis
* Questions for Discussion and Reflection
* Expanded Glossary, an extensive list of key words which can be read as a map of the concepts in the film
* Bibliography for further reading listing books, articles and links to online materials
* Ideas for how to present the film in different contexts, e.g. classroom, community screening
* Still images and graphics from the film
Awards and Festivals
Bioneers Film Festival
Oxford Talks, Oxford University
Linnean Society, London
Museum of Natural Sciences, Barcelona
David Brower Center, Berkeley
Climate Change/Global Warming
History of Science
Philosophy of Science
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... more Reviews
"An astonishingly important, deeply transformative, and original film - historic in fact. Its momentous news that all biological life (including ours) succeeds not by competition but by collaboration offers ways to resolve even our devastating global climate emergency."
Bill Blakemore, Veteran foreign and domestic correspondent, ABC News
"This splendid film gives us insights into Margulis' prolific career; and into the woman, whose vitality explodes across the screen with the force of a slow-motion supernova."
Margaret Wertheim, Author, Physics on the Fringe, Founder, Institute For Figuring
"Lynn Margulis changed how we think about evolution...Through a focus on the filmmaker's own learning process, Symbiotic Earth reopens interest in Margulis' endeavors. Jump to the parts where she talks about bacteria: they are brilliant. You'll never think about washing your hands the same way again."
Dr. Anna Tsing, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz, Author, The Mushroom at the End of the World
"Important, thought provoking, and beautifully shot."
Martin Ping, Executive Director, Hawthorne Valley Association
"Captivating...Absolutely riveting...It creates a whole new way of thinking about the beginnings of and development of life."
Ross Gelbspan, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Author, The Heat Is On and Boiling Point
"Symbiotic Earth highlights the importance of Lynn's thought for our understanding of evolutionary change. Considering these two aspects of her work, symbiogenesis and critique of Neodarwinism, there is little doubt that Lynn Margulis was the greatest natural scientist of the last century. Symbiotic Earth does a superb job explaining and celebrating the scientific impact of the Lynn Margulis legacy."
Mark McMenamin, Professor of Geology, Mount Holyoke College, Author, The Garden of Ediacara: Discovering the First Complex Life
"This documentary is a tribute to her insights and her willingness to share them...You will learn a great deal that is fascinating about how life surges and adapts, takes every possible pathway, and changes the world it finds until it is better suited for life."
Jack Kittredge, The Natural Farmer, Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)