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The general public often perceives soil as a hidden resource. In recent years, the film industry has shown an increasing awareness about the soil environment. Indeed, as public opinion about environmental problems has increased, soil as a natural resource has become more popular in public discourse, and, consequently, the film industry, partly because of its ability to showcase public concerns and mainstream opinion. This review aims to identify depictions of soil in films and the following consequences regarding their impact on society. We investigated movies containing different perspectives and aimed to understand: i) the role of the soil environment in their message; ii) how soil was approached by filmmakers; iii) how and to what extent such an approach changed along the investigated period; and finally; iv) how “soil movies” should be used as an innovative educative and didactic tool. Nine hundred and eighty movies where soils represent a direct or indirect source of inspiration or background for the movie’s storytelling were analyzed (from 1903 to 2022). Several approaches to soil resources were observed, which led us to seek quantitative data, too. Results showed that soil has been represented with approaches often far from the simple idea of soil as a static backdrop. Scriptwriters and directors have moved from a stylistic representation of soil to one that includes the soil environment in the main narrative by using innovative metaphoric approaches. With its ability to represent soil as a natural resource, this review demonstrates that “soil movies” can strongly contribute to spreading knowledge about this fragile and non-renewable resource, encouraging its use for educational purposes.


Published in Geoderma by Elsevier B.V. Available via doi: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2023.116710.

This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC license (