Seed: The Untold Story
directed by Jon Betz and Taggart Siegel
Collective Eye Films
Seeds made us what we are: hunter gatherers now tied to a patch of land and taste for the same foods every day. In this sweeping documentary, directors Betz and Siegel take a sweeping view of the seed business, beginning with an old farmer named Will Bonsal. He collects, reproduces and preservers edible varieties that are nearly extinct and reports: “I’m not God, I’m just Noah trying to get everything on the ark for someone else.” He seeks out the obscure tomatoes, oddly-shaped squash and forgotten flowers my great grandparents bought from colorful seed catalogs that filled their dreary winter months in Wisconsin. We see lovingly shot footage of these fruits; these images along justify the time you’ll spend with this film; these are darn sexy cucumbers and artichokes. The history of the world is formed by these humble tubers and corms; Seed points out the massive number of entries beginning with “O” in the NYC phone book. That is due to the planting of “Lumper” potatoes in Ireland 100 years ago; they offered great yield but held no immunity to “Late Blight”. The farmers starved or fled to America.
Along the way, we see nicely animated stories of how corn spread from the mountains of South America to the entire continent, and how the Europeans were able to exploit this bounty. After a stint looking for new plants in a jungle swamp we come to the contentious issue of GMO foods and the iron hand of agribusiness. A Canadian canola grower explains how pollen escaping form a neighbor’s field contaminated his crop, and he got sued for patent infringement. Thought-provoking and well-paced, this is the sort of documentary that appears only so often at film festivals but offers wide appeal. And as you munch your oddly dyed popcorn, wonder where it came from and how it got to you.
This film will be shown as a part of the 2016 Florida Film Festival. For tickets, show times and location please visit www.floridafilmfestival.com