The Vision of Wangari Maathai, a film by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater

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Video Librarian Review

August 03, 2010 (Web Review)
Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai 3.5 stars

(2008) 80 min. DVD: $89: high schools & public libraries; $285: colleges & universities. Marlboro Productions (dist. by New Day Films, tel: 888-367-9154, web: PPR. Closed captioned. ISBN: 978-1-57448-237-9

Part of the acclaimed PBS-aired Independent Lens series, Taking Root tells the story of Wangari Maathai, the university professor and political activist who became a Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader of an ecological movement in Kenya. Maathai was born in a Kenyan village in 1940. By the time she reached adulthood, her once green and self-sustaining country had become dry, infertile, and impoverished, in part because tea and coffee plantations had replaced indigenous forests and small farms. To combat the environmental degradation, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots effort that taught women how to plant trees. As documented by filmmakers Lisa Merton and Alan Dater, this seemingly simple undertaking eventually had widespread effects, including reforestation (millions of seedlings were planted), an improved rural economy, and greater self-sufficiency and empowerment for the women. Historic footage and photographs documenting some of the shameful aspects of Kenya’s history as a British colony are interspersed with reporting on Maathai’s struggles with the corrupt regime of President Daniel arap Moi. In 2002, a democratically elected government replaced Moi’s, and Maathai was elected to parliament with 98 percent of the vote; she also was named assistant minister of the environment and natural resources. Two years later, Maathai became the first African woman to win the prestigious peace award.

The uplifting narrative is nicely backed by gorgeous camerawork and an original soundtrack from African musician Samite. DVD extras include information on the Nobel Peace Prize, civic and environmental education workshops, and colonial history, as well as bonus interviews with Maathai.

Highly recommended.
Aud: C, P.

F. Gardner for Video Librarian, August 2010

Taking Root Film

a film by
Lisa Merton and Alan Dater

Marlboro Productions

Marlboro, Vermont