TAKING ROOT tells the dramatic story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai whose simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy—a movement for which this charismatic woman became an iconic inspiration.
Dr. Maathai's courage and vision are rivaled closely by her capacity to teach. Her story - as told in this film -- is worth a thousand textbooks.
TAKING ROOT: THE VISION OF WANGARI MAATHAI tells the inspiring story of the Green Belt Movement of Kenya and its founder Wangari Maathai, the first environmentalist and first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
The U.S.- educated Professor Maathai discovered her life's work by reconnecting with the rural women with whom she had grown up. Their lives had become intolerable: they were walking longer distances for firewood, clean water was scarce, the soil was disappearing from their farms, and their children were suffering from malnutrition. Maathai thought to herself, "Well, why not plant trees?" She soon discovered that tree planting had a ripple effect of empowering change. Countering the devastating cultural effects of colonialism, Maathai began teaching communities about self-knowledge as a path to change and community action. The women worked successively against deforestation, poverty, ignorance, embedded economic interests, and violent political oppression. They became a national political force that helped to bring down Kenya's 24-year dictatorship.
Through TV footage and chilling first person accounts, TAKING ROOT documents the dramatic confrontations of the 1980s and '90s as the women of the Green Belt Movement confront human rights abuses and environmental degradation. Cinema verité footage of the tree nurseries and the women and children who tend them brings to life the confidence and joy of people working to improve their own lives on their terms.
TAKING ROOT captures a world-view in which nothing is perceived as impossible and presents an awe-inspiring profile of Maathai's unstoppable and courageous thirty-year journey to protect the environment, defend human rights, and promote democracy.
TAKING ROOT is one of the most important documentaries of our times. In this critical era, may the work of Dr. Wangari Maathai serve as a powerful inspiration to all of us working to uplift our people and nurture life on the planet. May this beautiful film move us all to live as service warriors, as Dr. Maathai so humbly, yet fiercely demonstrates through the gift of her extraordinary life. Every seed planted offers hope, every plant watered brings life, and every tree celebrated is a gift to the generations to come.
What moved me about this film is how completely it does justice to the breadth of Wangari Maathai’s vision. Students need to make the connection that the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity are intricately linked. Without one, there cannot be the other. TAKING ROOT shows students in a very visceral way what that means in one woman’s life. I highly recommend it to teachers trying to expose students to ideas that can change the world.
TAKING ROOT provides an unusually rich, comprehensive, and honest portrayal of one of the most articulate voices for social justice of our time--Wangari Maathai . . . [It] shows Wangari Maathai as a complex person--on her knees, arms covered with earth, planting a tree at one moment; on her feet cajoling a government official the next; staring down a band of thugs at one time, addressing international dignitaries the next. The power of this superb film is the extent to which it has captured the nature of the person and the impact of the work.
The film exceeds even my high hopes. [Taking Root] is much more than a moving tribute to Wangari Maathai, although it certainly is that. It captures the transformative potential of “regular people” finding their voices. It proves that courage is contagious. It directly contradicts the current negative, disempowering images of Africa. It is about the deep change I know is essential to save our planet and is possible because I’ve had the profound privilege of seeing it. Now I am overjoyed because through this film millions more can see what I see. It will inspire untold, endless acts of courage.
Wangari vividly makes the connection between healthy communities and a healthy environment. This timely message is presented through the focus on a dynamic African woman who connects local, domestic settings and governance on the global stage, successfully leading a social movement that challenges an entrenched, mostly male, elite. This film was an excellent ingredient in my class on Gender and Social Change in Modern Africa, illustrating a range of possibilities rarely highlighted in the literature. A must see!
TAKING ROOT underscores the critical importance of education to a social movement. It portrays a vision of education that is not about changing people’s heads, but ultimately changing the conditions under which people live. We can talk in the classroom about education for social change, but this extraordinary film provides a model for change that engages and inspires. It is worth a hundred hours of classroom talk...both the film and the woman are truly extraordinary!
Anyone studying environmental policy and law today should see this film. Wangari Maathai is an inspiring teacher.
TAKING ROOT: THE VISION OF WANGARI MAATHAI is an astounding film, capturing for years and populations to come the life and work of one of history's most extraordinary women, one in whose living presence we are blessed to share.
Attests to the seismic changes wrought by women of different religions and ethnicities working together . . . Lucid, lovingly crafted pic.
Highly recommended. ***1/2
Lisa Merton and Alan Dater’s documentary shows how one person can change the face of the Earth, giving environmentalism and activism a face other than Al Gore or Michael Moore . . . From this affectionate, rousing portrait, the Nobel Prize winner emerges as a warm, humble, but unstoppable advocate for human rights—proof that one small voice of dissent can shake nations. It’s news we need to hear