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Bullfrog Films
Michael Leppert
Bullfrog Films -- P.O. Box 149, Oley, PA 19547
Ph: 610/779-8226; F: 610/370-1978;

Films reviewed: (1) “Affluenza” (1997, KCTS [Seattle] Television) a documentary produced by John de Graaf & Vivia Boe; and (2) “Rough Science” (2002, The Open University) produced by the BBC and Open University and WETA (Washington, DC); 10-part VHS series, 27 minutes each and new DVD format containing 4 VHS episodes and much “behind-the-scenes” material.

To begin, here is a quote from Bullfrog’s Website: “Bullfrog Films . . . founded in 1973 . . . is the oldest and largest publisher of videos and films about the environment in the United States.” Their Mission Statement is: “To bring together programs that point the way to a new paradigm for living happily, healthily and sustainably . . . Our producers include the National Film Board of Canada, CBC, Television Trust for the Environment, BBC-TV, World Wildlife Fund, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Rodale Press, and leading independent producers from around the world.”

If you are a political conservative, there is no need to run for cover after having read the above. The Bullfrog Films we have watched are balanced, thought-provoking, intelligent and very entertaining. Our family discussed the content of “Affluenza” and will certainly continue to do so. Let me begin with that film.

Affluenza is, like “Merchants of Cool,” a film that should be watched and re-watched by every family in America – homeschooling or not. It deals with our national material gluttony coupled with the inexorable feeling of emptiness that has reached the level of an epidemic. All of us are aware of this “I shop therefore I am” syndrome of living – either observed or practiced. We all want or have “more”, but actually feel that we have less of substance in our lives. The film mentions that 1957 was the highest year in which Americans actually said they felt satisfied with life. Since that time, the satisfaction level has steadily declined. Unless you have already given thought to this topic, watching “Affluenza” will help you see yourself more clearly and where your desire level falls in relation to the material world at large. “Affluenza” is not preachy or finger-pointing, and is predominantly tongue-in-cheek, rather than heavy-handed, which makes it very effective. It simply provides a mirror for us to see our society and ourselves.

The fascinating series “Rough Science” demonstrates exactly how I think science should be approached – functional application. A team of five men and women scientists from different disciplines, are placed on a tropical island and then given two or three challenges to accomplish within 3 days, using raw materials available on the island. Some of the materials are odd bits of manmade stuff and some are made from the natural materials on the island. Each of the episodes features a different three-day set and you see the science teams succeed or fail, depending upon the circumstances. Here is one of my favorites: A two-person team was assigned the task of mapping the coastline of the island without using any surveying or measuring tools other than what they could make. One scientist named Kathy Sykes, did a great job of building a protractor measuring device out of a piece of plywood. She and her partner calculated the height of the highest point visible to them and also drew a “crude” map which when overlaid with a “real” map, was amazingly accurate. The new DVD versions of these films include extensive additional material, including details of how Ms. Sykes made her measuring instruments, for example, and the construction details of an “Edisonian” recording device another scientist made out of wax and other available materials. The scientists are very personable and un-pretentious and the discussions of their experiments are enlightening. You should treat yourself to the DVD versions of Rough Science; they will re-pay the investment over and over.

I highly recommend both of these films – “Affluenza” and the “Rough Science” series and I advise that you visit Bullfrog’s website for a complete listing of their products. These films represent a tremendous resource in providing “real life” knowledge and valuable information to homeschooling families – not just the children, but parents, too. Watching them together is a great way to spend an evening. – Michael Leppert
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