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Down to Earth

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A documentary film about people-powered change to be worked with, not consumed.

Down to Earth is the story of one family’s call to freedom after questioning the home, school and work system. As they quit the rat race we follow them on a five year journey in search of the wisdom of sages and shaman, or Earth Keepers, hidden in the remote tribal communities of Australia, the Amazon, Africa, the Andes, India and Ireland.

Gaining access to never filmed before tribes in the outback, desert and jungle with just a backpack and a camera each was no mean feat. Despite the different locations the family kept making the same connections, having the same conversations, just with different faces. And the Earth Keepers sharing their insights and wisdom for the first time with outsiders acknowledge that, "Now is the time for change.”

We are family

The film grew from director Rolf Winter’s dream of finding a retreat in nature for his wife and three young children, then aged 6, 7 and 10 (see his TED talk below). After spending a year in Hiawatha Forest in Michigan the family encounter Nowaten, a medicine man whose name means "He who listens," living in isolation there. He reluctantly agrees to being filmed, becoming the film’s main contributor.

Nowatan believes there is no purpose in living if you lose the land and forests, because we depend on forests for our spiritual connection and wellbeing. People are lost because they have lost connection with nature, and we are all members of nature. He says, “Life is simple, we complicate it, take only what you need.” 

But, as Rolf says, we can’t all go back to the forest. So the film asks how do we lead a connected life in a fast-paced world? Real change is only going to happen with a changed mindset of you and me. The diverse problems facing humanity can no longer be delegated to our politicians and scientists, who ultimately are a reflection of us, the people. The time has come to transform our lives and create a new story, our own story. How exciting!

Originally Rolf and his wife, co-director Renate Heinen focused solely on telling the stories of the Earth Keepers. But, after three film executives told them that leaving out their own story was a mistake, they begun weaving in personal footage with the help of talented editor Sahil Gill, much of it candidly shot by the children. It was yet another act of faith: the touchstone of the family’s experience.

Capturing the big, wide Nature shots giving the film its beautiful cinematic quality required further innovative ways. For the signature shot of the Namib Desert, Rolf leaned out of a small plane with its passenger door removed and floated over Hiawatha Forest and Lake Superior in a powered parachute.

Oscar-winning composer Stephen Warbeck (Shakespeare in Love) borrowed aspects of each geographic location to provide him with inspiration for the soundtrack. He believes the vital connection between the filmmakers and their subjects meant he could be as truthful as possible with the family’s vision, and the result is a powerfully moving score.

Film is community

The film's story tellers confront the values of the dominant paradigm of love of money and consuming. People don't love each other and are out for themselves: selfishness and egocentrism is killing them. From this perspective people don’t know who they are and, according to Nowaten, live in ‘The Illusion’. In contrast, the Earth Keeper’s say we are here to take care of all living things and share an inviolable interconnectedness. Everyday people must start attuning to the collective intelligence, sensuousness and creativity to educate, lead and live consciously sustainable lives.

Down to Earth is a call to action aimed at unlocking the potential of people-powered change. The message is clear: humanity is the master of its own destiny, and by working together we can build a new paradigm to create better futures. The film's example of change and movement as drivers for shifting our awareness ‘re-minds’ us we all have a role to play as Earth Keepers, however big or small.  And, above all, has limitless potential for thought provoking discussion about who we are and what we are here to do. 


Down to Earth premieres on 23rd June at Picturehouse Central and UK release September 7, 2018 at Picturehouse Cinemas. Groups and individuals sharing the values and ethics of Down To Earth are invited to organise screenings in local community venues, for more details contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 Down to Earth is available to watch online in seven languages here: