Imagine this: it is a typical Thursday night and you find yourself trying to choose a movie to occupy your time. You are in the mood for a film that could both thrill and provoke thought. Sound familiar? Before you settle on the most recent blockbuster, consider a less conventional cinematic experience, one that offers excitement, stimulation, and raw truth. Although a documentary on invasive species was hardly what you had in mind, “Strange Days on Planet Earth” gives an experience well worth the time.
People generally do not become involved in a problem unless they are directly effected by its outcome. The film examines several areas of the world where the havoc invasive species have wreaked on the environment has directly effected humans. In New Orleans, an invasion of a termite has led to the destruction of the historic homes in the French Quarter. In Guam, children are being attacked by the foreign Brown Tree Snakes. Out of all the examples given, most alarming was the situation in Lake Victoria, Uganda, with water hyacinth. A beautiful and harmless looking plant has directly lead to countless crocodile bites and diseases inflicted on locals. The species had completely canopied the lake, clogging fishing lines and creating stagnant pools. Without the flow of water, diseases such as malaria, have begun to spread more quickly. They have also created waters ideal for crocodiles. As the crocodile population sky rockets, the fish population stays the same. With the lack of food, the crocodiles seek human flesh to satisfy their palate. By bringing light to how invasive species directly effect humanity, the movie uncovers a moral underside the issue. Many scientists may argue that the death of native species is in itself a moral issue, and should have been more heavily focused on in the film. In reality, the percent of the population who are emotionally moved into action over a lost species of plant is very minimal. By focusing on how invasive species pose a threat to humans and not just native species, the film-makers inspire viewers into action; a feat that would otherwise be very difficult to accomplish.
Some may criticize the film for over-dramatizing the problem of invasive species in order to draw viewers. In many ways, this can be distracting to viewers seeking the model unimaginative documentary. However, for the rest of America, the exhilarating methods National Graphic employs are exactly what scientists in the field of preventing the spread of invasive species need. The hype caused by the film will cause a domino effect of awareness. People may find themselves checking their shoes for New Zealand mud snails or avoiding planting foreign species to avoid their spread. While the documentary offers enjoyment over merit, perhaps hype is exactly what is necessary for this issue. So next time you find yourself in the position of not knowing which movie to watch, “Strange Days on Planet Earth” should be the obvious choice: for entertainment that will also inspire action.