Just after Earth Day seemed like an appropriate time to see The Bitter Seeds at the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival. The third in a globalization trilogy by Bay Area Filmmaker Micha X. Peled following Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town and China Blue. The opening images in Bitter Seeds of an Indian farmer who just committed suicide due to the economic hardship. It creates a disturbing beginning for this character driven docu film that focuses on the effects that GMO seeds have on the cotton farmers in Central India.
The root of the film, investigates the how Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds negatively impact the livelihood of the Indian farmers. The farmers face a viscous cycle that circles around the GMO seeds, refused loans by legitimate banks and exorbitant loans by local moneylenders (a.k.a. loan sharks). The farmers fall into a cycle of debt that often results in suicide. The film only touches on the fact that large US cotton growers receive huge subsides from the US government while the small Indian receive nothing.
Beside the economic impact, the well- balanced documentary also follows 18 year old Manjusha whose desire to become a journalist and find the deep reasons about these suicides stems from the fact that her farmer father committed suicide. The film also address the social and family impact of the family farmers and how the pressure continue to mount.
The film creates a natural tie-in to the second film in the trilogy China Blue as much of the cotton harvested in this region gets shipped to China.
More interesting remains the fact that Bitter Seeds got a last minute nix from the London Film Festival due to “legal reasons”.
While not quite a David versus Goliath tale, it does contain elements that pit US GMO seed maker Monsanto versus the Indian Farmers. Toss in the family issues, and the local flavor and the film offers an informative piece of a well balanced trilogy.
Screens at the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival:
Tue, Apr 24
8:50 / PFA
Thu, Apr 26
6:15 / Kabuki