Wednesday, September 21, 2016

SEED: THE UNTOLD STORY -- Jon Betz and Taggart Siegel's food and farming doc opens

When we think about our food and where it comes from, the last thing on many of our minds is the humble little seed. Those of us who follow the ever-rising control of big corporations worldwide, however, may think first of seeds, and then of power-hungry behemoths such as Montsanto, soon, it would seem, to be merged into Bayer, an even bigger power-hungry behemoth: (You can register your disapproval of that merger by clicking here).

SEED: THE UNTOLD STORY, a new documentary from Jon Betz and Taggart Siegel, very smartly begins with a kind of history of seeds, introducing us to an ex-hippie farmer, shown below, who has now collected literally thousands of varieties of seeds, and who tells us that, sadly, we've lost 94 percent of our seed diversity during the 20th Century.

It was wise of the filmmakers to provide us this seed history and importance before showing us what the reign of Capitalism and "hybrid seeds," along with corporations and their venal and ridiculous idea of "patenting" nature are doing, with the help of slime balls like Clarence Thomas, surely the sleaziest member of our current Supreme Court. Next we move to Mexico and the fascinating story/history of corn. "We are seeds," explains one of several of the Indians who guide us through all this, as we are made to see and understand the kind of love that goes into caring for seeds. (Seed farming and seed banks, we learn, are now internationally connected.)

We visit Hawaii and watch as neighbors and whole communities protest the poisoning of their land and their children via toxic pesticides. We learn that NAFTA, by selling subsidized corn in Mexico, has forced two million farmers off their land. We see something similar in India, thanks to -- yes, again -- Montsanto. We view "Seed schools" in action via the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, an organization devoted to increasing, rather than further depleting, seed diversity.

Seed: The Untold Story is a vitally important documentary, subject-wise, at least. But, as you may have gathered from the above paragraphs, its approach to its subject is scattershot and all over the place. Also, for anyone who has followed the subject of food and farming via the number of good documentaries that have appeared over the past decade or two, the movie cannot help but seem repetitive. A figure such as Vandana Shiva, above, has already made some 78 appearances on film and TV, including the documentaries Dirt! The Movie and Solutions locales pour un désordre global. (Click the preceding link and then scroll way down for my review of that latter film.)

Filmmakers Betz and Siegel (shown above, with Betz on the left) are to be thanked for their efforts, even if the end result does not rise artistically to the level of importance of the subject itself. There are still plenty of things to be learned and gained from viewing this movie.

Seed:The Untold Story -- from Collective Eye Films and running 94 minutes -- opens this Friday, September 23, in New York City at the Cinema Village and the following Friday, September 30, in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Monica Film Center.

Will the film be shown elsewhere? I have no idea, and since it does not yet even appear on the Collective Eye web site, don't expect any help there, either.

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