EcoMedia literacy

The Tree of Life (2011), Eco-theology & Film: A Conversation with Prof. George Handley


By Benjamin Thevenin and George Handley

Movies as Mirrors is a conversation podcast about representation in movies hosted by Benjamin Thevenin, Associate Professor of Media Arts at Brigham Young University. Each episode features a guest who selects a film that reflects a social issue that interests or affects them. On this episode, BYU Professor of Humanities George Handley discusses the 2011 movie The Tree of Life, along with myself and guest-host and media educator Camlyn Giddins. In the conversation we explore the Terrence Malick-directed film’s representation of humans’ relationship with the natural world and how eco-theology—an engagement with ecological issues that draws upon theological discourse—can be a productive way to introduce audiences to environmental issues. We also talk about the value of movies as environmental education for the public, and discuss other films like the Darren Aronofsky-directed films The Fountain (2006), Noah (2014), and Mother! (2017) along with Paul Schrader’s film First Reformed (2017). And we talk about the need for more nuanced cinematic representations of issues like climate change as a means of raising the public’s awareness about these important issues.


Benjamin Thevenin is an Associate Professor of Media Arts at Brigham Young University. His studies focus on the relationships between youth, media and politics, and, in particular, how we can better prepare young people to become thoughtful citizens, consumers, and creators of media. Benjamin serves on the Advisory Board for the Journal of Media Literacy Education and as Associate Editor of the International Encyclopedia of Media Literacy.


Professor George Handley teaches environmental humanities at Brigham Young University and writes and researches on the intersection between religion, literature, and the environment, with a special interest in postcolonial literature. His articles have appeared in Callaloo, Modern Fiction Studies, Environmental Humanities, Angelaki, ISLE, Mississippi Quarterly, and other journals. His scholarship has also focused on the environmental values of Mormonism and he frequently speaks publicly in his home state of Utah about environmental values and issues. In addition to his scholarly writing, he writes creatively, and this work includes his environmental memoir, Home Waters, which won the 2011 prize for best memoir from the Association of Mormon Letters and his novel (with Roundfire Books) American Fork, which was a finalist for the best book in fiction in Utah in 2019. 

"The Tree of Life" (2011) with George HandleyMovies as Mirrors
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