Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History


Natural History on the Big Screen introduces audiences to some of the latest environmental films that address the relationship humans have with the planet. 


March 24, 2018 3:00 pm


Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and National Zoo invite you to a film screening as part of the 2018 Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital! The new Smithsonian Channel documentary, Laws of the Lizard, follows award-winning filmmakers Nate Dappen and Neil Losin as they partner with scientists, including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Kevin de Queiroz, to tell the surprising story of anole lizards – how they spread through Latin America and the Caribbean, conquered every possible habitat, and diversified into hundreds of species – and what they tell us about other species and ecosystems around the world.  

Followed by a Q&A discussion with the filmmaker, Neil Losin, featured expert in the film Kevin de Queiroz, Research Zoologist at the National Museum of Natural History, and Matthew Evans, Assistant Curator at Smithsonian National Zoological Park.


African elephants

March 18, 2018 3:00 pm


Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and National Zoo invite you to a film screening as part of the 2018 Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital! Mind of a Giant explores what it is like to be a modern elephant surviving in a world of poachers, new human settlements, and other dangers. As a team of scientists struggles to find out how many elephants are left in Africa, they discover intriguing new behavior. In order to survive, the elephants are learning. 

Followed by a Q&A discussion with Bryan Amaral, senior curator at the National Zoo, Nicole Edmison, collections mammalogist at the National Museum of Natural History, Shifra Goldenberg, behavioral ecologist with Save the Elephants, and Josh Plotnik, featured expert in the film and founder of Think Elephants International. 



November 30, 2017 6:30 p.m.


Faced with their own mortality, an improbable group of mostly HIV-positive young men and women broke the mold as radical warriors taking on Washington and the medical establishment. How To Survive A Plague is the story of how activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition

Followed by a moderated panel discussion.


Chasing Coral

October 23, 2017 6:30 p.m.


The National Museum of Natural History, the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, and The Nature Conservancy invite you to a screening of Chasing Coral, a Netflix original documentary.

Journey with a team of divers, scientists, and photographers around the world on an epic underwater campaign to document the disappearance of coral reefs.

Followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Jeff Orlowski, self-proclaimed coral nerd and the film’s subject, Zack Rago, scientific advisor for the film and coral reef specialist at NOAA, Mark Eakin, and coral reef expert and Sant Chair for Marine Science at the National Museum of Natural History, Nancy Knowlton. Maryanne Culpepper, Executive Director at Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital, will moderate.


Great Yellowstone Thaw - Grizzly Bear

June 14, 2017 7:15 p.m.


Witness one of the greatest seasonal changes on the planet in the stunning new three-part PBS and BBC co-produced series, Great Yellowstone Thaw

Journey with the National Museum of Natural History’s Sant Director Kirk Johnson and a team of experts to Yellowstone National Park to witness the extraordinary survival instincts of the park’s natural species, including bears, wolves, bison, grizzlies, beavers and great gray owls. Share their experiences as they examine the ways these animals fend off floods, starvation and fires, and endure the area’s extreme evolution from cold to heat during the spring season. 

Join Johnson in person on June 14 for a special excerpt screening followed by a discussion with Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive at PBS, and Casey Anderson, grizzly bear expert featured in the film. Joe Hanson, writer of PBS Digital Studio's "It's Okay to Be Smart" will moderate.

This evening is co-presented with the Public Broadcasting Service.  


An Ocean Mystery - The Missing Catch

April 22, 2017, 6:00 p.m.

(US/Bahamas/Canada/Honduras/Senegal, 2016, 46 min.) 

The Missing Catch follows renowned fisheries scientist Dr. Daniel Pauly and his team of international experts as they piece together evidence to discover the true quantity of fish we have caught, and just how close we are to running out of this precious resource. Along the way we find  hope; Dr. Pauly’s landmark research on fisheries management, and new technology developed by Dr. Stephen Box, Vice President of Global Fishery Solutions at Rare and former scientist at the Smithsonian, reveals an opportunity to preserve the bounty of the seas for future generations. Written and directed by Alison Barrat, co-produced by the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation and the Smithsonian Channel.

Followed by a discussion focused on solutions presented in the film featuring experts in the film Dr. Daniel Pauly and Dr. Stephen Box, and the filmmaker Alison Barrat. Moderated by Senior Vice President of Production at the Smithsonian Channel, Charles Poe. 

This program is presented with the Smithsonian Channel and the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation as part of the Earth Optimism Summit programming at the National Museum of Natural History.

The "Stories From a Transforming World" three-part series presented with the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital and curated by Joshua Bell, Curator of Globalization at the National Museum of Natural History, will explore multiple perspectives on the Age of Man - from close to home, to a global scale.


October 13, 2017, 6:30 p.m.
 (Bolivia/US, 2015, 76 min.) 

The world's largest salt flat, Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni, is a pristine, otherworldly expanse of white. For generations, the only signs of life have been the "saleros" who harvest salt from its radiant surface. This remote region is thrust into the future when Bolivia's leaders embark on a planto extract a precious mineral found beneath the salt crust, and to build an infrastructure connecting the Salar to the outside world. Salero, a nonfiction feature film, is a poetic journey through the eyes of Moises, one of the last remaining salt gatherers. Set at the dawn of the modern age in one of the most secluded places on earth, Moises' story explores how identity is formed by both tradition and progress. Directed by Mike Plunkett. 

Followed by a discussion with Joshua Bell, Curator of Globalization at the National Museum of Natural History, and Robert Albro, Research Associate Professor at American University's Center for Latin American and Latino Studies. 


death by design.png

November 29, 2017, 6:30 p.m.

DEATH BY DESIGN (US, 2016, 73 min.)

Just what is the cost of our digital dependency? Director Sue Williams debunks the notion that electronics is a “clean” industry by investigating a number of environmental and health catastrophes wrought by production of our gadgets. From early poisonous practices in Silicon Valley, to China’s ongoing dumping of chemicals this is a story that isn’t being told - but can no longer be ignored. Directed by Sue Williams.

Followed by a discussion with the filmmaker Sue Williams and curator Joshua Bell. 

Land Beneath Our Feet

February, 28, 2017, 6:30 p.m.

THE LAND BENEATH OUR FEET (Liberia/US, 2016, 60 min.)

The Land Beneath Our Feet weaves together rare archival footage from a 1926 Harvard expedition to Liberia with the journey of a young Liberian man, uprooted by war, seeking to understand how the past has shaped land conflicts in his country today. This film is an explosive reminder of how large-scale land grabs are transforming livelihoods across the planet. Directed by Gregg Mitman and Sarita Siegel.

Followed by a discussion with the director, Gregg Mitman, and featured subject in the film, Emmanuel Urey.