There is no better time for Kiss the Ground, a new save-the-Earth documentary from directors Josh Tickell and Rebecca Tickell. It’s late 2020, and we are, as Americans, not only coming up on the most important election in our history, but we are facing unprecedented natural disasters, including forest fires, floods, hurricanes and a pandemic that has brought the world to its knees. If there were ever a time when Americans are primed to hear the message that is blasted out from this slickly-produced, star-studded and thoroughly entertaining documentary that is designed to both scare the hell out of us and give us some semblance of hope, it’s now.
There is no doubt, however, that given our current political climate and rhetoric coming from the halls of power in this country, many will tune out for the message they feel they’ve heard again and again. At this point, you have the people who believe the science and those who don’t. What makes Kiss the Ground so refreshing is it is not even trying to reach the people who have already decided to ignore reality. Instead, this film is aimed directly at the rest of us, those of us who believe the planet is dying, but we feel helpless to stop it. And, just like any great superhero movie, no matter how dire the circumstances, no matter how impossible the challenge may seem, no matter how long the odds, the heroes always find a way. And this is the neat trick the Tickells have done here. This is a carefully crafted documentary with a purpose, but it also has a narrative, a structure and a story. And the promise of a happy ending.
The straight-out-of-Hollywood vibe of this movie is no accident. Famous people who are passionate about saving the planet are sprinkled throughout the film, including Gisele Bündchen (who also executive produced), Tom Brady, Patricia Arquette, David Arquette, Ian Somerhalder, and Jason Mraz, with Woody Harrelson narrating. But far more effective than the celebrities are the real-life ranchers and farmers who tell their stories of how a new way of approaching their work has changed everything. It is these real-world applications of otherwise pie-in-the-sky ideas that makes Kiss the Ground so much more than a progressive dreamscape. They remind us that there are real people and real consequences behind every decision, every political talking point, every action. While the over-reliance on the celebrity factor sometimes is distracting, the effort is noble, and never once forces the film off its path.
And that path is one of education, enlightenment, and action. There is no hidden agenda here, the filmmakers are not just interested in explaining how we got here, they are rather intensely focused on showing, using a variety of clever cinematic techniques, including animation, computer graphics and music, what is happening and how it needs to change—how it CAN change. That’s by far the most effective element in Kiss the Ground. The last thing I needed was another doom-and-gloom lecture about how we are destroying our children’s future. While there certainly is a reality check here, the aim is to show a path towards hope for the future, and not giving up.
There is a much-appreciated avoidance, for the most part, of talking-head scientists and instead the film gives us a visual feast, combined with Harrelson’s poignant narration, that illustrates the actual science of global warming and climate change, while teaching us about the one thing that may just solve everything. Kiss the Ground is not about how to fix the air, in fact, it’s about how to fix the ground. This film will teach you more than you ever wanted to know about soil, including the fact that the soil beneath our feet is actually what’s been killing us—but it’s also what can save us. The film provides a poignant historical perspective, which is quite effective, as it assumes most of us, rightfully so, have no idea how we even got here.
There is a full-circle foundation to Kiss the Ground which is both intentional and thematic. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, there is no more elemental earthly essence than the soil. For all the speeches about solar power, wind power, water power, even natural gas, nobody has taken the time before to really explain the vital importance of the ground beneath our feet. Kiss the Ground educates and enlightens in an extremely compelling way—and makes it actually very relatable. It personalizes while, at the same time, vividly illustrates the global nature of our circumstance, while never overwhelming with too much science or too little common sense.
While Kiss the Ground does start to feel a little like an over-produced commercial towards the end, if you have stuck around that long, the effectiveness of the picture painted by the filmmakers is just too compelling to ignore, no matter how hippy dippy it may feel at the end. Watch this film with your entire family—it’s that good, and that important.