Living Downstream

Inst. Price: $295
Site Price: $115.00
Home Price: $69.95

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Subjects: Activism, Agriculture, Biology, Cancer, Chemistry, Environment, Health Issues, Medicine, Pesticides, Pollution, Science

Grade Level: SrH-Adult
Producer: People's Picture Company
Closed Captioned: No
Running Time: 85 mins
Country of Origin: Canada
Study Guide: Yes

Copyright Date: 2010
Available in French: No

Based on the acclaimed book Living Downstream by ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. Part scientific exploration, part personal journey, this eloquent film follows one pivotal year in Sandra’s life as she travels across North America, working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links.
 There once was a village overlooking a river.
The people who lived there were very kind.
These residents, according to parable, began noticing increasing numbers
of drowning people caught in the river’s swift current.
And so they went to work devising ever more elaborate technologies to resuscitate them.
 So preoccupied were these heroic villagers with rescue and treatment
that they never thought to look upstream to see who was pushing the victims in.
Living Downstream is a walk up that river. The river of human cancer. 
Raised in small-town Illinois, cancer seems to run in Sandra’s family. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Sandra was in high school. Many of her aunts and uncles have battled the disease. But while cancer runs in her family, she cannot say that it runs in her genes. Sandra is adopted. This unusual twist has led her to spend her adult life writing and speaking about why so many otherwise healthy people are becoming victims of cancer. 
Sandra leads us, guides us and inspires us – but our film continually extends beyond the boundaries of her experiences. The film opens as Sandra returns to her hometown in Central Illinois. There, she hears about an uncle’s new fight with cancer and drives through some of the more contaminated neighborhoods, sharing stories of cancer clusters and industrial pollution. While driving past the factories and farm fields, Sandra looks at the smokestacks and spraying trucks and asks: “Where is all this stuff going?”
This question launches the film on a journey of another kind, because Sandra is not the only one who is traveling. The toxic chemicals against which she is fighting are also on the move. Through a pair of chemicals – the herbicide atrazine and the banned industrial chemicals PCBs – Living Downstream tells a story of the beauties and complexities of our environment and our bodies. We follow these invisible toxins from the places where they were released into the environment. We watch as they migrate to some of the most beautiful places in North America, embedding themselves into those things necessary for all life – our air, food and water.  Through scenes with other scientists, we see how these toxins enter our bodies and how, once inside, researchers believe they may be working to cause cancer.
Living Downstream is not the typical environmental health film. It takes us on two journeys through cancer with Sandra: her private battle with the disease and her public fight to bring attention to the urgent human rights issue of prevention. This film is a personal meditation on the pain and destruction of cancer but also a visceral tribute to the natural world. A dire warning made hopeful by the incredible determination of one woman, Living Downstream is a powerful reminder of the intimate connection between the health of our bodies and the health of our air, land and water. Our environment is within us.

The Educational DVD includes the following elements:
  • Full Film (85 minutes)
  • Short Film (55 minutes)
  • Chapter Selection – allowing viewers and educators to select specific scenes for viewing. 
  • Time & Subject-Specific Viewing Programs – options of collections of scenes to meet time or topical viewing needs.
  • Mini Docs – five-minute documentaries using additional scenes, extended interviews and previously unseen footage to explain social principles and scientific processes.
  • Commentary Tracks
  • Living Downstream ~ In the Classroom – a guide for educators who wish to use the film in their teaching. Filled with lesson plans, review questions, key concepts and extension activities, it is designed to encourage critical thinking. Produced in collaboration with teachers and their students, this guide includes correlation with curriculum standards for several states and provinces in both the United States and Canada.
Photo © by Benjamin Gervais / The People's Picture Company


Official Selection - Projecting Change Film Festival - Vancouver 2011


Related Documents: Living Downstream - Educational Guide

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