Seed: The Untold Story has all the ingredients of a classic tale: a beautiful, yet vulnerable protagonist, murder and devastation, corrupt villains, unsung heroes and an unshakable hope.
Wrap it in beautiful cinematography and demonstrate the knowledge conveyed as essential for our survival and Collective Eye Films—’Unearthing Stories to Make a Difference’—has struck documentary gold.
Welcoming viewers to this under-explored world are macro views of individual seeds in all their exquisitely detailed glory. Often seen as no more than innate granules, insight collected from around the globe demonstrates a seed as life, a living embryo containing our history and our future. It also exposes the mass genocide of seeds that’s unfurled throughout the 20th century and wiped out 94 percent of all vegetable varieties—extinct and gone forever. It is the teachers, indigenous practitioners, scientists, activists, lawyers, farmers and laymen, with a hope for humanity’s survival, that are fighting to save what little we have left and ensure life continues as best it can on this planet.
The story follows a conscious path that begins with a spiritual connection to seeds, where every corn kernel is embraced as a child by the Hopi Nation in Arizona, and the White Earth Nation in northern Minnesota struggles to ensure the wild rice they’ve harvested for thousands of years stays “wild.” Science is then introduced to explain the importance of genetic diversity and its necessity—from seeds that can naturally exist in drought or fight disease that has yet to come to the fore—for life to sustain.
Of course, there are seed banks and libraries all over the world collecting everything they can before it becomes genetically generic. Forces such as war and natural disaster threaten their existence and success, but the real horror dug in a century ago when seeds were transformed from a natural treasure to a commercial commodity. The business of patenting seeds and owning them—led by ‘big chem’ companies such as Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and Syngenta—ushered in a global demise for our natural species along with numerous associated tragedies. Peripheral damage has been suffered in many forms from the poisoning of civilians living near ‘test crops’ sprayed with experimental pesticides, to a commercial “seed dictatorship” causing the complete collapse of India’s natural seed species and prompting the suicides of 270,000 farmers, to the general loss of genetic diversification which is the only thing that will ensure our food supply can endure.
The various interwoven stories are told using interview footage as well as crafty animation reminiscent of National Film Board shorts illustrating everything from the movement of corn up along the backbone of the Americas to the potato crisis suffered by the Irish and the players in government and industrial agriculture manoeuvring through a tightly revolving door at a dizzying speed.
Executive producers Marisa Tomei, Marc Turtletaub (Little Miss Sunshine) and Phil Fairclough (Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams) helped ensure a polished production, which has now won more than a dozen film awards world-wide, but the heart of the story—a story that’s a part of each of us—is where Seed really succeeds.
Seed: The Untold Story is the third documentary in a trilogy from filmmakers Jon Betz and Taggart Siegel. It follows Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us? and The Real Dirt on Farmer John.
Metro Cinema (8712 109 St.)
Mar. 5 at 4:30 p.m