Seed The Untold Story
Seeds are the beginning of just about everything, whether physical kernels that sprout to feed nations or metaphorical seeds that spring systems of thought, economics and politics. The human race and the entire ecosystem it depends upon have survived in great part because of the diversity of seeds in the world and their ability to evolve. For more than 12,000 years, human beings have harvested food sources from the thousands of varieties of seeds throughout the diverse climates around the world. The feature-length documentary, SEED: The Untold Story sounds the alarm at a global level as it documents and presents startling statistics that show that 94 percent of the seed diversity that existed in the world, throughout history has dwindled in the last century.
Filmmakers Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz—as well as a long list of academics, farmers and activists including Scholar, Vandana Shiva and Dr. Jane Goodall among many others—are not shy about tearing the veil off the culprits. The documentary was in part funded through a Kickstarter campaign. Actress Marisa Tomei also signed up as executive producer along with Marc Turtletaub and Phil Fairclough (who also produced Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man).
Documentaries like SEED: The Untold Story are small productions that are easily overlooked but bring to the forefront important issues and seek new paths to promoting the health of the planet in comprehensive ways. SEED: The Untold Story is part of something bigger as an integral part of the Siegel and Betz body of work. The directors have used film to focus spotlights on environmental and emergent issues, one of their other films QUEEN THE SUN: What Are the Bees Telling Us? looks at the global bee crisis. Siegel and Betz never lose sight of the root of the problem, which is avarice transformed into the policies and practices of multinational corporations as they prioritize profits above human beings and the environment. The messages and connections made in SEED: The Untold Story cannot be understated as they make clear the financial relationships between industry and politicians. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto in the landmark Bowman vs. Monsanto case in 2013, it essentially gave the corporation and others like it ownership of nature. Justice Clarence Thomas was the swing vote in favor of Monsanto in the 5-4 decision. As the film points out, Thomas had been an attorney for Monsanto. What the film doesn’t point out is that Thomas has ruled in favor of the Monsanto more than once. Coincidence? The film goes on to show the extent to which corporations like Monsanto have the ability to hold humanity hostage.
SEED: The Untold Story is well-structured, paralleling the holdings of the major corporations with the geographical path of the narrative. Just as Monsanto—the multinational giant based in the U.S.—extends into every corner of the world, so do the voices of the documentary.
SEED: The Untold Story profiles individual and communities from different parts of the U.S. and the Americas, to India, Australia and Africa. The voices in the documentary are compelling, sharing similar experiences of victimization by the multinationals, thus creating a sense of solidarity between communities around the world. The directors conduct the voices into a symphony of hope, through which these communities seek harmony with nature and traditional ways of life that not only safeguarded humanity for thousands of years, but also were the caretakers of the seeds themselves.
Apart from being informative and intelligent, SEED: The Untold Story is also beautiful. It depicts the stories using several techniques, from macro photography and old footage, to interviews and animation. Using such a wide array of cinematic devices is risky and can often backfire, but SEED: The Untold Story mixes and matches techniques in well-balanced ways and through transitions that make the flow of the story make sense. All the different ways in which Siegel and Betz approach the story of the battle between the Davids of the farming world and the $46 billion Goliath take viewers through a process of their own. First there’s the feeling of being stressed out by the shrinking biodiversity, then there’s feeling compassion for the personal stories, followed by better understanding of the economic and political dynamics, and finally, the filmmakers empower the viewers to say, “Fuck Monsanto!,” making viewers part of the solution, if they choose to be.