Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Seeds-of-Freedom_PosterWhat does it mean for a small farmer in a traditional society to be confronted by an agribusiness juggernaut that intends to consign him, his family, and his methods of sustainable food production to the dustbin of history?

This film gives farmers and activists in Africa, Asia, and Latin America the opportunity to tell us about their experiences as they undergo the appropriation of their land and the corruption of their time-honoured methods by those who treat expressions of biological diversity as commodities to be privatised, manipulated, bought and sold.

Western chemical and agribusiness corporations have long understood that the key to controlling the world’s food supply is control of the essence of life itself: seed. Control of seed supply quite simply means control of the farmer and, as we can plainly see happening in the US, consolidation of the food supply into the hands of a small number of corporate entities.

Narrated by Jeremy Irons, and featuring interviews with a range of experts this short documentary packs a powerful punch. Its visual beauty, the words of farmers of three continents who are on the front line of this struggle, and the concise and direct message that it conveys will leave a deep and lasting impression on all who see it.

Seeds of Freedom is produced by The Gaia Foundation and the African Biodiversity Network, in collaboration with MELCA Ethiopia, Navdanya International and GRAIN.

Selected Quotes

“All traditional cultures have been based on the recognition that the most important reason we are here on earth is to play our role in maintaining life in its diversity. Because seed contains life, seed has been central to reproducing the culture of life. And if you look at rituals, in India, in Africa, in Latin America, seed is at the centre of it”.
Vandana Shiva

“Our traditional crops are good for eating, while the modern crops can be exported. But we can’t eat coffee.”

Norman Karima
Traditional Farmer, Kenya

“I think the real concern is that there is an increasing corporate control of the seed chain, and increasingly that means that a very small number of people are having a massive influence over the way in which farmers are able to farm. Traditional practices of saving seed are now under threat, and what that does essentially is to put corporate profit ahead of farmer’s ability to feed themselves and their communities.”
Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party) Brighton Pavilion

“They are chemical companies first and they are seed companies second. If you control the seed you control the profit from growing food.”
John Vidal
Environment Editor, The Guardian

“By controlling the seed you control the farmer, by controlling the farmer you control the whole food system. And that’s the legacy of genetic farming.”
Liz Hosken
Director of the Gaia Foundation

“It has nothing to do with feeding the world, it has nothing to do with tackling some of these huge issues we face today. It’s about control of the food sector, the food economy.”
Zac Goldsmith MP (Conservative)
Former environmental advisor to Prime Minister

“In reality it is all about stopping farmers from having their own seeds. And at the same time the eradication of independent food production. The corporations want control of food production in the hands of a very few.”
Ramon Vera Herrera
Editor GRAIN International

“The agrochemical and GM industry claims that small-scale agro ecological farming is backward and inefficient. But the reality is that in spite of the unrelenting pressures they face it is these farmers that feed 70% of the world’s population.”

“If we look at the ancestral way we find the solution to rebuild what has been destroyed.”
Mphatheleni Makaulule
Mupo Foundation, South Africa

Seeds of Freedom homepage


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51UZuxHU-IL._SY300_A Silent Forest – The Growing Threat, Genetically Engineered Trees (2009)

It’s entirely understandable that when we think about genetically modified crops finding their way into the food chain and inevitably into our own genetic makeup the first thing we’re likely to be concerned about is the effect that this technology is going to have on our health and that of our children. It’s a plain fact however that the immediate consequences for our physical integrity could be the least of our worries in this huge profit-driven experiment.

A Silent Forest is a disturbing documentary by filmmaker Ed Schehl about the dangers of genetically modified “toxic” trees. Narrated by geneticist David Suzuki, and with comments and explanation by an array of experts this film makes for uncomfortable but essential viewing.

If awareness is the key element in our rejection of this life-negating and destructive technology then  this documentary needs to be seen by as many people as possible. Pass it on!

Selected Quotes:

Biotechnologists think: genes are genes, it doesn’t matter where you stick them, and they’ll just function the way they normally do. Any geneticist who thinks about that should know better. Genes don’t function alone. They function within the context of the entire genome… it’s just a mistake to think that genes act as if their traits are expressed regardless of where they exist.”
David Suzuki

“This one gene, one protein, one trait caricature of how genetics works – that’s the whole foundation of the biotechnology industry – is a complete misrepresentation of everything we know about how genetics and complex organisms actually work.”
Brian Tokar, Director, Biotechnology Project
Institute for Social Ecology

What we’ve found through our research is that genetically engineered trees are truly the greatest threat to the worlds remaining native forest since the invention of the chainsaw.”
Anne Petermann
Global Justice Ecology Project

“This is about the corporate enclosure of life itself.”
Aziz Choudry
Organizer, Gatt Watchdog


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The Corporation (film)

The Corporation (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Corporation (2003)

Based on Joel Bakan‘s book “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power”, and directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, this is the bigger picture – the reason why.

This eye-watering documentary looks at the history and development of the modern corporate entity, while concurrently evaluating its “personality” using a similar methodology to that of a psychiatrist evaluating a patient (in US law a corporation is seen as being a single individual with the same rights and responsibilities).


Looming large throughout the film is chemical giant Monsanto. From the production of the infamous herbicide Agent Orange and its use in the Vietnam war, to the introduction of rBST/Posilac, a chemical designed to stimulate milk production, into a US market already awash with excess milk, to their creation of so-called “terminator technology” – seeds that are designed to produce a crop for one season, destroying themselves after that function has been fulfilled, Monsanto appears to epitomise the predatory, “psychopathic” species of corporate capitalism, ideologically committed to the private ownership of everything, including the essence of life itself.

Never Enough

This documentary, using an array of academics, journalists, whistleblowers, and business analysts, shows with sometimes alarming precision how and why the corporate mindset functions in the way that it does. If anything, and in light of developments during the last ten years, it is even more relevant now than it was on its release in 2003.

As filmmaker Michael Moore remarks at one point: for these corporations there’s no such thing as “enough”.

Selected quotes:

“Corporations were given the rights of persons, but then special kinds of persons; persons who had no moral conscience. These are special kinds of ‘persons’ which are designed by law to be concerned only for their stockholders.”
Noam Chomsky 

“It was more or less as if we’d created a doom machine. In our search for wealth and prosperity we’d created the thing that’s going to destroy us.”
Robert Monks
Corporate Governance Advisor

“With deregulation, privatization, free trade, what we’re seeing is yet another enclosure and private taking of the commons. One of the things I find very interesting in this debate is this concept of ‘who creates wealth’ – that wealth is only created when it’s owned privately. What would you call clean water; fresh air; a safe environment; are they not a form of wealth? And why does it only become wealth when some entity puts a fence around it and declares it private property? That’s not ‘wealth creation’, that’s wealth usurpation.”
Elaine Bernard
Executive Director, Trade Union Program, Harvard

“This is a war against evolution.”

Vandana Shiva

Environmental activist, author

The Corporation Film – the official website

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Gordian knotIt’s not my place to expound on events such as the Connecticut school shootings where so many innocent people died last week. I’m not qualified, and although I have an opinion about it, as we presumably all do, opinions, least of all mine aren’t going to help anyone. But I will voice an opinion, helpful or otherwise, about something I saw recently, coincidentally on the same day that those shootings took place.

Spaghetti Western

The trailers to the new Quentin Tarantino movie Django Unchained, two and a half-minute packages of graphic violence in word and deed are now available for all to enjoy on various websites. Of course there may be more to the movie than can be gleaned from watching a couple of trailers, but having seen something of that director’s work in the past I rather doubt it. However well dressed up, the movie will essentially be about individuals experiencing traumatic injustices and/or gruesome conflicts all of which will sooner or later be avenged by the use of an arsenal of assorted weaponry, in this case mainly handguns. The characters will be believable and the dialogue edgy and sardonic. As an audience we will root for the good guy however flawed, and come to despise the bad guy for his misdeeds. But never fear – revenge will be sweet and death will come swiftly to those who stand in the way of vengeance blah, blah, blah. In short Django Unchained is a Spaghetti Western with brains and apparently, in its use of certain characterizations, with 2012 sensibilities.

 peacemediaThe Acceptable Face

While my opinion about Tarantino and his work is that it would be better for everyone if he would confine his psychosexual fantasies to the psychiatrist’s couch (preferably while locked away in a remote mental asylum) it goes without saying that his work is by no means the worst of what’s out there. What it does seem to be, judging by the critical reaction to his movies is the acceptable face of extreme violence, made stylish and attractive by the use of hip dialogue and the sharp character definitions so beloved of film critics everywhere. Seen in this light ultra-violence is almost a desirable lifestyle choice and its practitioners trendsetters.

I abhor violence in whatever form it presents itself but I believe that I’ve come to a degree of understanding about particular aspects of it. I understand, for example, that certain people while living safe, secure, but tightly structured lives can become fascinated by the decisive act of violence as a way of cutting through confusion and complexity. I also understand its seductive power as a simplistic means to an end, and even as a form of self-expression when all else fails.

As a very young soldier I experienced the powerful effects that both random and organised violence can have on individuals, groups, and societies. There is an intoxicating sense of liberation when our flimsy social structures fall away and life becomes a matter of striking first and hardest. All questions are answered and all doubts silenced in such moments. Caught up in that delirium consequences are for others to worry about, a dangerous illusion so insidious that otherwise sane and grounded people can easily be swept away by it.

One thing leads to another - Nadeem Chughtai

One thing leads to another – Nadeem Chughtai

From a Distance

The cowardice that lurks at the heart of the use of guns is carefully masked by the technical and cultural blarney that surrounds it, but it comes down to this: The ability to strike decisively from a distance simply by choosing to do so allows a level of dissociation from the consequences of the act and requires a lesser, meaner kind of courage than, for example, the courage of the boxer who steps into the ring to go nose to nose with his opponent. This same detachment allows soldiers in helicopter gunships to massacre innocent people gathering in the street below, allows for the use and justification of robot drones to bomb and kill at the touch of a distant button, and allows politicians to send generations of youngsters to do their dirty work for them. If on the face of it these actions may seem to have little connection with one another, I’m utterly convinced that in essence they are one and the same thing.

From my personal experience I know that nothing, not my upbringing, not the endless hours of training, nor my knowledge of, and confidence in the piece of technology that I held in my hands prepared me in a fit way for the moment when I had to decide whether or not to pull the trigger on another human being. This was the crucial piece that was missing I realised much, much later – an ability to grasp the full consequences of what my training and clever technology had made me capable of doing.

Conspirators at Sunset - Chrissie Park Macneil

Conspirators at Sunset – Chrissie Park Macneil

Links in the Chain

Maybe it’s because these days I tend to see things from a holistic point of view rather than grouping causes and effects into separate, disconnected boxes that I’m unable to make a clear distinction between the man who designs, manufactures, and sells the weapon, and the man who carries the process to its logical conclusion and uses it to commit an act of violence. To me the designer of the landmine for example, safely out of sight in his workshop, is no better than the man who deploys the device with the intention of blowing another human being to bits. The person who then produces a work of pop entertainment that normalizes, justifies, romanticizes or glorifies that act is just another culpable link in the chain, no better than the arms trader or the psychotic who closes the circle.

This should be the clearly recognised and acknowledged chain of culpability, beginning with the bright spark who designs and markets the weapon, via those who through various ways and means legalize, promote and profit from its use, to the poor fool who pulls the trigger. Surely it must be obvious by now that those who have to deal with the consequences are the victims of a collective effort channeled through a well-defined, well-worn trajectory.

lgph0330+make-peace-dalai-lama-posterLevel of Consciousness

Attempting to fight gun crime or bring about peace by the use of more and more weaponry is a lunatic philosophy worthy of the cancer cell. Calling for the banning or restriction of arms sales to private individuals while at the same time indoctrinating young people in the advantages of their use and flooding the world with weapons of every possible description is nothing but the most cynical hypocrisy, in my opinion. But the arms industry and certain sections of the entertainment industry, amongst others, have a vested interest in keeping people at a level of consciousness that facilitates hatred, violence and warfare as means of dealing with our fears and uncertainties.

Tarting up extreme violence in a slick hi-tech package and selling it as a “game”, a cool fashion accessory or a  must-see movie doesn’t make it ok. It’s not a useful contribution. At best it is deluded self-indulgence, and at worst an act of predatory capitalism with a nasty little ulterior motive. Neither does it confront us with “reality” to any useful extent or offer a valuable insight into the human condition, whatever critics and other media types might say ad nauseam. That particular piece of insight, however cleverly disguised in psychological hocus pocus has literally been done to death.

What it does do is keep us scared and stupid. Scared people, given the opportunity, go out and buy guns to make themselves feel safe, then sit at home nursing their insecurities until something has to give. Those who are scared and stupid go out and use them.


Campaign Against the Arms Trade

Media for Peacebuilding

The Common Ground Blog


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This short documentary is all the more chilling because of its grounded approach and total lack of drama or theatre.

With European governments under fierce pressure to relax restrictions on the development and propagation of GM crops British farmer Michael Hart travels to the US and talks to a number of farmers who have experienced at first hand exactly what it means to be trapped in The World According to Monsanto. As you’d expect from such men there’s little or no philosophising or pontification, just the straight facts from direct experience.

Those interviewed are not rebels or idealists, or even organic farmers. In most cases they are simply farmers who bought into the Monsanto system because they thought that it was the right thing to do. Several years down the line they find themselves disappointed, worried, or downright appalled at the consequences, but powerless to find a way back.

This is a cool, pragmatic look at a potentially disastrous future for growers and consumers in Europe and around the world should the GM lobbyists be allowed to get away with what they’ve seemingly already accomplished in the US – the grand theft of our food.

Farmer to Farmer: The Truth About GM Crops from Pete Speller on Vimeo.

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Chris Whitley playing at the 400 Bar in Minnea...

Image via Wikipedia

It seems that someone has actually had the guts to make a film about the late genius singer/songwriter Chris Whitley. As anybody who saw him perform or has been touched by his music will tell you Chris Whitley was one of music’s great lost souls, a poet who happened to be a brilliant guitarist, able to conjure up waves of almost primeval sound from his instrument. While his musical roots were in the edgy, spooky blues of Robert Johnson and Son House, probably best heard on his 1991 debut album Living with the Law he was capable of delivering his vision in a sonic package that was often exhilarating, sometimes demanding. But however he presented it his music was never anything less than a true reflection of his own experience – something that defines the genuine artist whatever the means of expression.

The movie, directed by Jonathan Mayor is apparently still in post-production although the news on the movie’s website is outdated. The Facebook page tells us that the movie is awaiting final footage, and IMDb tells us only that the movie is as yet unreleased. The trailer however looks promising.

Chris Whitley was the genuine article – the real deal. There’s a lot of his music out there, so do yourself a favour if you haven’t done so already, and track it down.

www.chriswhitley.com : The official website

http://www.myspace.com/dustradio :Lots of music and a fine article

http://assmagic.com/chriswhitley :A discography

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Renowned aerial photographer and filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand wants everybody in the world to see his movie Home. That’s why it’s been distributed free in cinemas in almost every country (except Britain). But never mind, even in the land where the middle-man’s percentage is sacrosanct the film is free to view and download on the internet: www.homethemovie.org

The movie is a powerful and spectacular polemic showing the catastrophic imbalance brought about by mankind’s activities around the globe. It doesn’t mince its words either. The commentary, read in the English version by Glenn Close, is clear and direct in its message. Academic arguments about whether or not climate change or seismic instability are caused by human activity are made irrelevant by the combination of stunning visual evidence and chilling statistics: the world’s population has trebled since 1950; species are dying out at a speed 1000 times faster than the natural rate; three quarters of fishing grounds are exhausted;  2% of the world’s population controls more than 80% of its wealth while more than a billion people have no access to safe drinking water. The list goes on and on.

And yet despite the overwhelming sense of looming disaster the movie declines to end on a note of hopelessness – as the narrative tells us: “It’s too late to be a pessimist.” In much the same way as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth showed us a path forward Home ends with examples of positive and encouraging change and a basic plan for survival: an end to the rape of the Earth for the last remaining sources of fossil fuels; a massive investment in renewable energy sources – solar, wind, and wave power; an agricultural revolution that sees us working with nature not battling to subdue it; a redistribution of wealth and opportunity so that everybody gets a chance at a decent life. It’s a tall order for a world in a permanent state of distraction thanks to political claptrap and financial shenanigans, but the alternative – well, watch the movie and judge for yourself.

The debate is over. What’s needed now is that which should have been the priority four decades ago when the “debate” first started: a coherent worldwide strategy, and urgent action.




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