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Explores the sea change in national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the call for dam removal as awareness grows that our own future is bound to the health of our rivers.

A printer-friendly version of this page 87 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Presented by Patagonia
A Stoecker Ecological & Felt Soul Media Production
Executive Producer: Yvon Chouinard
Produced by Matt Stoecker, Travis Rummel
Directed by Ben Knight, Travis Rummel
Associate Producer: Beda Calhoun
Director of Photography: Ben Knight
Director of Underwater Photography: Matt Stoecker
Additional Photography: Travis Rummel
Editor: Ben Knight
Narrator: Ben Knight
Conceived by: Matt Stoecker & Yvon Chouinard

"Exquisitely shot and powerfully told." Stephanie Merry, Washington Post
[Note: Community screenings of DamNation can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]

Note: There are two versions of this program on the same DVD: 87-minute theatrical and 52-minute classroom.

This powerful film odyssey across America explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers. Dam removal has moved beyond the fictional Monkey Wrench Gang to go mainstream. Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds, after decades without access. DamNation's majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature.

DamNation opens big, on a birth, with the stirring words of Franklin D. Roosevelt at the dedication of Hoover Dam, and on a death, as the engineer at Elwha Dam powers down the turbine on its last day. DamNation stints neither the history nor the science of dams, and above all conveys experiences known so far to only a few, including the awe of watching a 30-pound salmon hurtling 20 feet into the air in a vain attempt to reach the spawning grounds that lie barricaded upriver. We witness the seismic power of a dam breaking apart and, once the river breaks free, the elation in watching wild salmon - after a century of denied access - swimming their way home.

Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2014     Copyright Date: 2014
DVD ISBN: 1-94154-521-1

"DamNation rolls along like a free-flowing river, powerful and inspiring. This informative film pays eloquent homage to rivers that are seemingly lost behind massive dams and then offers a compelling call-to-arms to restore these rivers by removing the dams. It is thus both educational and moving."
William Lowry, Professor of Political Science, Washington University, Author, Dam Politics: Restoring America's Rivers

"A powerful documentary...An excellent resource for any class exploring the environmental consequences of dams."
Shelley Spohr, Science Books and Films

"The last century was one of triumphant engineering dam projects, such as Hoover Dam. Times change. DamNation shows that what we thought was 'progress' was often regress, and that transforming free-flowing rivers into dead reservoirs was not a good idea. The worst are the 'deadbeat dams,' filled with silt and unable to perform their original function. This engaging film makes it clear that only removal of such dams will restore our rivers to ecological health. DamNation suggests a course of action Americans must embrace."
Robert Righter, Professor of the American West and Environmental History, Southern Methodist University, Author, The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy: America's Most Controversial Dam and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism

"Superbly photographed...This is a valuable addition to environmental study collections on a subject not frequently discussed."
Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, Trinity-Pawling School Library, School Library Journal

"Damnation is the most fun I have had being educated about an environmental issue in a long time. The filmmakers do a superb job of documenting the history of dam building in the US interwoven with a clear and compelling picture of the environmental and cultural fallout of the rush to harness the energy of every river. I wasn't surprised to find myself concerned at the continued impacts that dams are having on native fish, but I was surprised to find myself moved to tears by the stories of cultural loss associated with the disappearance of salmon from Native American community life."
Dr. Robert S. Young, Licensed Professional Geologist, Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, Professor of Coastal Geology, Western Carolina University

"A fun watch! DamNation invites viewers to think about big dams in America---what they give us, but also what they force us to give up. Most importantly, this film highlights how society's attitudes toward large dams are changing, as recent high profile dam removals on Washington's Elwha River and Maine's Penobscot River demonstrate."
Dr. Sarah Null, Assistant Professor of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University

"DamNation shows with stunning images and gripping interviews the environmental and cultural consequences of dams in the United States. The decimation of salmon fisheries, destruction of priceless archaeological sites and submersion of breathtaking canyons in the Southwest, and fatal dam failures are some of the impacts. In an educational setting, this film would illustrate for students important environmental concepts and thought provoking material for lively class discussions."
B. Lynn Ingram, Professor of Earth Science, University of California at Berkeley, Author, The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell us About Tomorrow

"Highly recommended...Well suited for courses in environmental history, environmental politics, and the history of the American West."
Douglas Dodd, California State University-Bakersfield, Educational Media Reviews Online

"DamNation introduces us to dam workers and politicians, activists and authors, explorers and scientists, historians and artists, recreation enthusiasts and Native Americans practicing salmon rituals. The filmmakers deftly weave these voices together to give a holistic picture of the positives and negatives of dams."
Cherice Bock, Whole Terrain Journal

"Highly recommended...An excellent choice for public library collections or educational viewing."
Midwest Book Review

"A powerful visual and somewhat emotional experience...A good and interesting story...A valuable addition to the classroom."
Wynn Calder, Journal of Education for Sustainable Development

"DamNation is a movie that matters...With a blend of history, face-melting nature cinematography, and a dash of Edward Abbey-style criminal mischief, DamNation lays bare this truth in a way that is educational, entertaining, and, perhaps most importantly, inspirational."
The Santa Barbara Independent

"Visually stunning...magnificently captures the natural beauty of unencumbered rivers to provide a perfect contrast with the hulking man-made obstacles that dams represent to nature's free will."
Geoff Berkshire, Variety

"A fleet movie with a convincing argument for systemic dam removal (some of which is caught thrillingly on film) and arresting nature-drenched cinematography."
Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

"A quick, smart documentary about the havoc one country can create in its native fish populations by building 75,000 dams over an 80- or 90-year span."
Chris Packham, Village Voice

Select your institution type

DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
2 versions: the original 87-minute version and a 52-minute classroom version, with SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.

Host a community screening

Awards and Festivals
Audience Choice Award, SXSW Film Festival
Audience Award, MountainFilm in Telluride
Environmental Advocacy Award, Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Best Feature Film, People's Choice Award, Green Film Festival, Seoul
Grand Jury Prize, Audience Choice Award, Environmental Film Festival at Yale
Best Conservation Film, International Wildlife Film Festival
Best Feature Award, San Francisco Green Film Festival
Best of Festival, 5Point Film Festival
Nigel Moore Award, DOXA
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Dallas VideoFest
American Conservation Film Festival
Cornell River Film Festival
Feather River Festival
Palouse Outdoor Festival
Gratifly Music and Arts Festival
International Green Culture Festival, Serbia
United Nations Association Film Festival
Croation Green Film Festival
We The Peoples Film Festival (UK)
Let's Talk About Water Film Festival

American Studies
Climate Change/Global Warming
Earth Science
Environmental Ethics
Global Issues
Marine Biology
Native Americans
Natural Resources

Western US

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... more Reviews

"Unabashedly critiques America's long held obsession with damming our waterways with a striking intelligence that not only plays to their outdoorsy compatriots with a predilection for fly fishing and whitewater rafting, but anyone with an appetite for environmental activism...A slickly produced, highly entertaining investigation."
Jordan M. Smith,

"All will be moved by the film's heartfelt and irreverent tributes to paradises lost along America's beautiful, if unduly encumbered, waterways."
Michael Agresta, Austin Chronicle

"DamNation is a wonderful combination between archival and modern footage and is very much a documentary worth watching."
Peter Woodward and Vivian Hua,

"Informative and passionate...fascinating history and critique...Perhaps some dams were needed at the time, but too many dams were built, and many of those are no longer needed today. It is always painful to have to rethink a century-old policy, but the planet cannot bear the tourniquets that humans have placed on its watery arteries."
Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database

"Exquisitely shot and powerfully told."
Stephanie Merry, The Washington Post

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