Seed: The Untold Story is the rare documentary from filmmakers who are not just capable but also in love with their craft. It's a wonder of photography, animation, and sound, and it's a testament to its editors that the many interviews with activists and scientists are compelling and informative, sometimes even poetic. "This is the variety that explains why 'O' is the biggest section of the Boston phone directory," says one farmer about the strain of potato brought over by starving Irish immigrants.
Seeds are tiny capsules of potential life that, collected properly, ensure that we can eat year after year. But many superior seed varieties are being eliminated by chemical corporations like Syngenta, Bayer, and Monsanto, which employ underhanded tactics to spread and protect their patented hybrids (and profits).
The film's science is occasionally tenuous: There's not enough evidence to assess claims that allergies and cancers are caused by those companies' products. But that's on them, too, considering how they quash the studies that would shed some light.
Directors Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz, in their third film on food and ecology, demonstrate how scientists, farmers, seed geeks, Native Americans, and others protect biodiversity and global livelihoods against the ravages of climate change and capitalism by saving and swapping rare and essential seeds.
But capitalism may help them, as long as consumers pay attention to well-researched works like this and limit their gardens and dinner tables to plants grown from non-agribusiness-tainted, local or organic — and sometimes downright gorgeous — seeds.
Seed: The Untold Story
Directed and produced by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz
Collective Eye Film
Opens September 23, Cinema Village