This penguin may not be at the Oscars tonight, but director Werner Herzog will be there for his film: Encounters at the End of the World

If you're watching the Academy Awards tonight, be sure to look out for the filmmakers who have directed their cameras towards wildlife and nature.  These Oscar-nominated documentaries each take on different subjects– from Antarctic wildlife, to urban vegetable gardens– but all draw some focus to the power of our natural world, and the need for us to protect it.

Encounters at the End of the World:

Werner Herzog's film isn't so much about Antarctica's natural beauty as it is about the people who make their home at the bottom of the world. But Herzog, on assignment from the National Science Foundation, does collect some absolutely stunning footage from underneath the Antarctic ice shelf.  Seriously, go out and rent this one: the underwater shots of Antarctica's underwater ecosystems are incredible. And there are plenty of penguins too. Herzog pretends that he's not interested in penguins– he doesn't sound like he's a fan of March of the Penguins— but he can't resist comparing a penguin who doesn't follow the crowd as a metaphor for the scientists who study the Antarctic wilderness.

The Garden:

LA might be known for it's smog and traffic jams, but it's also known for a 14-acre community garden. The Garden tells the story of a group of Los Angeles residents who fight to save their garden from developers.  For most of us, it's still a bit too cold to be thinking about our own gardens yet, but The Garden is just the kind of film to inspire some early spring planting, and getting a bit more involved in your own neighborhood community.

Trouble the Water:

It's been three years since Hurricane Katrina (can you believe it's already been more three years?) and we have yet to halt the global warming pollution that is causing disastrous weather patterns around the world. Trouble the Water takes us back to the Ninth Ward in August 2005, as aspiring hip hop artist Kimberly River Roberts and her husband videotape their neighborhood going underwater. Three years later, this film reminds us that it's time to stop global warming for good, and restore our balance with nature.

So when you're watching stars walk down the red carpet tonight, keep an eye out for these films that celebrate and promote respect for our natural world. 

Published: February 22, 2009