UKGFF 2015: Seeds of Time Review


Over the next few weeks, FILM IN WORDS will be taking a special look at the 2015 UK Green Film Festival, showcasing and reviewing this year’s stellar lineup of thematically potent, visually arresting and environmentally focused films. We hope you can come along for the ride…

Words: Brody Rossiter
Twitter: @BrodyRossiter


“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me” – MACBETH, ACT I, SCENE III

Despite agriculture predominantly dealing with that which grows from the land, it is ultimately a man-made construct, a constantly evolving set of practices, which, we as human beings, are solely responsible for, and must continuously nurture if we wish to survive on this planet. The purpose of agriculture is to sustain and enhance our lives through cultivation, and while the idea of planting a crop, feeding it, watering it, and finally serving it up at the dinner table may seem like an ancient yet simple journey, the biology at its heart is a perilous and unpredictable balance beam upon which the fate of humankind teeters.

Agricultural pioneer, Cary Fowler, is a man who has dedicated much of his life to better understanding the ins-and-outs of this life or death balance, a relentless undertaking that he himself identifies as being partially responsible for the failure of two of his marriages and a frustrated relationship with his sons. The subject of crop diversity and its disappearance thanks to contemporary farming practices has been his focus for the last thirty years. Cary discovered that thanks to our own complacency to adapt our domesticated seeds and crops to the effects of climate change, we have set ourselves on a course to disaster. His answer to this crisis: build an agricultural doomsday vault containing a collection of the world’s life-giving seeds deep in the heart of a Norwegian mountain.

Using worldwide case studies, Seeds of Time, starkly highlights just how deadly climate change could prove to our dinner plates, but unfortunately, as Cary states to the viewer, seed collections aren’t sexy. And despite the subject matter proving so undoubtedly important to our existence, the issues explored grow increasingly disengaging – just in the same manner as we are to our own planet. The picture balances a great global struggle with Cary’s own personal struggles, from those strains on his home life, his struggles with cancer, and his failures to secure the requisite support for safeguarding our crops. This juxtaposition offers upon a compelling human element that is often lacking and proves to be the film’s most obvious oversight.

Despite Seeds of Time being a deeply informative, truly enlightening, and consistently well-made documentary that may prove vital to those learning and working within its chosen field, it lacks a certain punchiness. Cary is essentially saving the planet, but doing so in a way that unavoidably has to be bogged down in boardrooms and conference halls; environments in which the fate of humanity is discussed without any real sense of human emotion. Seeds of Time tells an important story, and compounds an even more important reality; it’s just a shame that the possibility of the end of the world as we know it feels so unavoidably lifeless.


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