Expand Your Knowledge With These Impactful Films
July 1, 2020
Esalen Team

Relish the power of film. The artform often goes beyond just “entertainment” to guide us through challenging times. As 2020 continues to offer its set of ongoing challenges, we turned to Esalen Inspirational Film Festival (EIFF) Co-founder Corinne Bourdeau who curated a stellar watch list to consider during this historic time. The following films make for great viewing—right now—and offer a powerful trifecta: they are uplifting, inspiring and educational.

I Am Not Your Negro

Directed by Raoul Peck, this powerful documentary is based on James Baldwin's last unfinished manuscript Remember This House. Anchored in a powerful narration by Samuel Jackson, the film offers an in-depth exploration of racism in the United States. It was nominated for best documentary feature at the 89th Academy Awards in 2017 and rightfully so. It is extraordinary on every level.


Powerfully directed by Ava DuVernay, Selma is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Alabama voting rights marches initiated and directed by James Bevel and led by Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams and John Lewis. The film's top-notch cast includes stars David Oyelowo (as King), Tom Wilkinson (as President Lyndon B. Johnson), Tim Roth (as George Wallace) and Common (as Bevel). This powerful film stays with you long after viewing.


EIFF Artistic Director Trina Wyatt highly recommends Ava DuVernay's film, 13th. Billed as a criminal justice outing, 13th shines the spotlight on the prison system and also offers a powerful exploration of race in America. This is, perhaps, one of the most powerful and educational films to come out in the last decade. Trina says all of DuVernay’s films are sublime and 13th is truly "of the moment" right now.

Rebuilding Paradise

Staying true to its title, this documentary shows the destruction and rebuilding of the town of Paradise, Calif., after a devastating fire in 2018. Beautifully shot by Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard, the film boasts edge-of-your-seat footage and offers inspiration on how to rebuild—and reimagine—a new future. This is timely as many of us consider rebuilding our own lives.

The Biggest Little Farm

In these uncertain times, we may have heard several people ponder moving to a farm. Biggest Little Farm showcases the journey of an idealistic young couple, John and Molly Chester, as they decide to leave behind the fast-paced L.A. lifestyle to pursue their dream of starting a farm that integrates permaculture principles. The film is beautifully shot and explores both the challenges and joys of farm living.


Based on the best-selling book by Brian Selznick, Wonderstuck is poetically shot in black and white and is also silent, which gives the film a magical, timeless effect. Directed by Todd Haynes, the film intertwines the stories of two 11-year-old children who are bound by a mysterious connection even though they live 50 years apart. The New York Times review notes: "Stars glitter and worlds collide in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck, a lovely ode to imagination and to the stories that make us who we are."


Esalen Team