BITTER SEEDS
Category All , Current Affairs , Ecology and Animal Stories , Human Interest , Human Rights , Society
Year: 2011
Country: USA
Running Time: 57' | 88'
Production: Teddy Bear Films
Director: Micha X. Peled
Official Website: www.teddybearfilms.com
Trailer: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xlyhjp_bitter-seeds-trailer_shortfilms
 
Synopsis

Bitter Seeds is the final film in Micha X. Peled’s Globalization Trilogy, following Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town and China Blue. The films won 18 international awards, aired on over 30 television channels and screened in more than 100 film festivals. They also connected to NGO action campaigns and encouraged Western consumers to understand their impact on the rest of the world.

Bitter Seeds explores the future of how we grow things. The worldwide debate focuses on how farming is being drastically transformed by the demands of industrial agriculture. Companies like the U.S.-based Monsanto claim that their genetically modified (GM) seeds offer the most effective solution to feeding the world’s growing population, but on the ground, many small-scale farmers are losing their land. In India, the controversy has become a matter of life and death. Every 30 minutes one farmer in India, deep in debt and unable to provide for his family, commits suicide.

Following a U.S. complaint to the World Trade Organization, India had to open its doors to foreign seed companies. Within a few years, multinational corporations have taken over India’s seed market in a number of major crops. Now only GM seeds are available at the shops, requiring India’s farmers pay an annual royalty. The GM seeds are much more expensive, they need additional fertilizers and insecticides and must be re-purchased every season. While large farms have prospered, the majority of farmers find it increasingly more difficult to make a living off their land.

Bitter Seeds follows a season in a village at the epicenter of the crisis, from sowing to harvest. Like most of his neighbors, cotton-farmer Ram Krishna must borrow heavily in order to afford the mounting costs of modern farming. Required by a money-lender to put up his land as collateral, he gambles on everything he has. When his crop is attacked by pests, Ram Krishna must do whatever he can to avoid losing the family land. Adding to his burden is another duty – his daughter has reached marrying age, and he must find the money for an expensive dowry. Ram Krishna has just become a candidate for joining the ranks of the farmers who commit suicide in despair.

Weaving in and out of Ram Krishna’s story is that of his neighbor’s daughter. Manjusha, a college student, is determined to become a journalist and tell the world about the farmers’ predicament. Her family opposes her plans, which go against village traditions. Manjusha’s ambition is also fueled by her personal history - her father was one of the suicide victims. When a newspaper reporter agrees to look at her writing, Manjusha takes on Ram Krishna’s plight as her first reporting project. Armed with a small camera from the production team, her video becomes part of the film.

From the remote village in the state of Maharashtra, the film follows the seeds salesmen to their company’s headquarters. Interviews with seed industry executives (including Monsanto’s) and their critic, Vandana Shiva, flesh out the debate. Featuring compelling characters, Bitter Seeds tells a deeply moving story from the heart of the worldwide controversy about the future of farming.

More on Film

BITTER SEEDS – Director’s Statement

I believe Globalization has become the overarching theme of our times. It clearly has many positive aspects that have improved our lives. But mostly, the dynamics of Globalization are working for the rich and powerful, for those who make the rules, enabling multinational corporations to expand their reach and governments to extend their control.

My Globalization Trilogy focuses on the current and emerging economic superpowers: U.S., China and India. The Trilogy begins with us here in the West, and then journeys back down the production-consumption chain, each film peeling off another layer.

Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town explores consumerism in the U.S. China Blue investigates the sweatshop labor conditions in the manufacturing of the “Made in China” clothes we all buy. Bitter Seeds goes further back to the raw materials – looking at the suicide crisis of farmers in India who grow the cotton exported to China’s garment factories to be used for the clothes sold in the West.

Each film tells a story of individual lives, whether of small town residents trying to keep out a megastore, or a farmer fighting to keep possession of his land. Even though by global forces far beyond anyone’s control shape these lives, I don’t find the films dispiriting. Each film portrays protagonists who struggle despite the odds, who pursue their dreams, who leave us both awed and outraged, causing many viewers to ask when the lights go up: “What can I do to help?”

It has taken me twelve years to make these films. I didn’t know when I began that this would be a trilogy, or I would never have started.

I’m glad so many people have seen these films. We’ve had screenings in over 100 film festivals, theatrical runs on three continents, tv broadcasts on 35 channels and official DVD editions in ten languages.

Winning 20 awards has been a great honor. But most precious were some of the reactions I got from viewers, like the handwritten letters from inner-city kids in Oakland, California, who never thought before about how their jeans were made; or the offer from a Polish teacher to send money to a girl in China who can’t afford the train ticket back home. That’s Globalization at its best.

 

More about Director

Micha X. Peled

A native of Israel, Micha Peled is one of the few to ever emigrate to the U.S. by hitchhiking. He has directed and produced documentaries for broadcasters in the US, Britain, France and Germany.

Peled has just completed his Globalization Trilogy, a mammoth project lasting 12 years. Store wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town (2001) focused on Wal-Mart and consumption in the U.S.; China Blue (2005) investigated the manufacturing of the clothes Wal-Mart sells. Now, Bitter Seeds looks at the crisis of farmers in India who are growing cotton that is exported to China’s garment factories. China Blue is banned in China, where it was filmed clandestinely, and has had the distinction of airing on public television both in Iran and Israel.

Peled's films have aired on 33 television channels, had theatrical releases in Europe, Japan and the U.S., were released on DVDs in eight languages (officially), and screened in over 100 film festivals on every continent, including premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival and IDFA in Amsterdam. He is the recipient of over a dozen international awards, including the Amnesty International Human Rights Award at IDFA, the PBS/Independent Lens Audience Award, the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco Film festival, and Best Documentary at Mar Del Plata and Hawaii Film Festivals, and at Urban-TV, the International Television Festival of Urban Ecology in Madrid. His films were nominated for the Joris Ivens Prize at IDFA and the Distinguished Achievement Pare Lorenz Award of the IDA, the International Documentary Association.

Peled made his first film in 1992, when his mother sent him the manuscript of her life story, which became Will My Mother Go Back to Berlin, produced for WDR TV in Germany.  After Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin wrote, “It’s a damn good movie,” Micha quit his job to become a fulltime filmmaker. He has never looked back. After Inside God’s Bunker, he produced You, Me, Jerusalem, which was the first Israeli-Palestinian co-directed film. He also made the fiction short Delinquents, which won a Platinum Remi at the Houston Worldfest. His favorite press review quote about his work remains: “I couldn’t restrain frequent outbursts of ‘Oh my God!’”
For more information: www.teddybearfilms.com

Festivals & Awards

2011 Telluride Film Festival, USA

2011 International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Netherlands
Won IDFA Award for Best Green Screen Documentary
Won Oxfam Global Justice Award

2012 Prague One World Film Festival, Czech Republic

2012 Palm Springs International Film Festival, USA

2012 Hong Kong International Film Festival, China

2012 Resistance Persistence, India

2012 Boulder International Film Festival, USA

2012 Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Greece

2012 Cinema Novo Festival, Belgium

2012 Movies That Matters Human Rights Film Festival, Netherlands

2012 It’s All True documentary film festival, Brazil

2012 Istanbul International Film Festival, Turkey

2012 San Francisco International Film Festival, USA

2012 Newport Beach Film Festival, USA

2012 Mar del Plata Independent Film Festival, Argentina

2012 Jerusalem International Film Festival, Israel

2012 Vancouver International Film Festival, Canada

Press & Reviews

"Rounding out his "Globalization Triology" with another affecting, character-driven portrait designed to indict corporate opportunism, Micha X. Peled exposes the issues underlying a rash of farmer suicides in "Bitter Seeds."
Peter Debruge, VARIETY

Interview with Micha X. Peled
Daniel James Scott, FILMMAKER MAGAZINE

"Here is a documentary that shows what is really happening because of GMOs,” VonBreck says. “When I saw it, I knew this is such an important issue to raise awareness on. I knew we were doing important work."
Blair Madole, BOULDER WEEKLY

"Films like yours can put pressure on (Monsanto) to stop turning a blind eye, to stop pushing for sales in all segments of the population regardless of economic and agronomic inappropriateness, and to be socially responsible... Only public exposure and pressure and shaming will have a hope of getting them to change... And only that kind of public pressure can get governments to start listening to someone besides the companies and make policies to protect their citizens."
U.S. Government (USDA) employee

"Better than a Batman movie, with real villains making up their own lines."
Peter Sellars