We are now approaching Peliti Festival 2015, but today’s post is related with last year’s festival.It’s an interview with Sara Baga, film director of Seed Act – a documentary film in progress about how different people and organisations get hands on for seed sovereignty in Europe.
What’s the story behind the movie? How you guys do decided the world need to watch a movie about seeds?
Back in 2005, my interest in seed diversity really intensified when I was at a presentation given by the association “Colher para Semear”, that travels around the country and collects the traditional heirloom seeds varieties. These varieties are becoming lost as they are no longer being commonly used (this is happening in Portugal but a bit everywhere in the world). They’d found 50 different varieties of grain legumes that year in the Tras-os-Montes region of Portugal!
This was a big surprise for me.
Then, I remember the idea to make this movie first flashed my mind, suddenly, like a vision, in 2010, while I was editing my previous documentary (Hortas Di Pobreza) about the lives of a peasant population depending on cashew trade in Guinea-Bissau. With that film I saw that the lives of the whole peasant population in that country was in a mess, because they depended entirely on the import of rice and export of cashew, and this lack of diversity is very nutritionally and economically limiting.
In Europe we have been losing a lot of the diversity of crops that we used to produce, namely fruits and vegetables. Although it’s not on the same scale as in Guinea-Bissau, we’re producing less and less varieties here also and depending more and more on just a handful of imported varieties. And food sovereignty is basically inexistent even in Europe…
But about making SEED ACT film, I remember thinking that I had to make a film about people taking action for their food sovereignty and seeds. And I even remember the moment I had the vision that the plot of the film would come in different acts, as in a theatrical play, each one clearly showing a context and a kind of action that they could get inspired by and take as an example to their lives. Of course this was clearly an idea and theme for a documentary that came from the fact that I was at the same time engaged into campaigning for food and seed sovereignty, and the idea came because I used to spend much time wondering what I can bring, what I can do, that can best contribute to this citizens’ movement of raising awareness about the issues with food and seed that our society is facing nowadays.
Who are the main characters in the movie?
More than main characters this film has main actions, in which some are represented by one individual but others more by a collective action. Anyway I can say we will also be featuring internationally-known characters from the seed freedom movement as Dr. Vandana Shiva, local heroes such as Panagiotis Sainatoudis from Greece, as well as the controversial french seed-saver Dominique Guillet founder of Kokopelli, a collective action association fighting for its right to breed and sell seeds of traditional varieties. We will be also featuring the well-known activists from the Field Liberation Movement in Belgium. As well as the Portuguese local heroes from the seed saving association Colher para Semear that are recovering old varieties of seeds from the depths of rural areas of portugal, and which were one of my first contacts with the seed-saving practise. There are many more interesting and surprising characters in the film.
How many people act for the bright future of SEED ACT? Share some interesting stories
Many people have joined us so it would take a long time to tell you stories about everyone, but there is a group of people, to which I am very grateful, who have joined to help bring this documentary to life.
Truth is most of the people helping us make this film are pretty much engaged in this movement in one way or another. And if they weren’t before, now they are! For example, Gonçalo Campos is one of our camera operators. When we invited him to come and film last spring with us in Greece, he didn’t know much about seeds except what would come from his mom, a professional agronomist developing experimental breeds of GMOs in a gene bank in Portugal. It was a brave new world he found out about! His eyes opened and he decided to learn more about saving seeds and how to grow food with his own hands. It certainly changed his life and opened some revolutionary possibilities, and he’s now living more in touch with the land and getting more in touch with saving seeds and permaculture.
A funny recent moment with another person was that one of the people that answered my call for translators for the crowdfunding video was a friend, Marie, from Germany. Well, she was about to give birth to her second child any moment. For a couple of days I had no email answer from her and I started wondering if she gave birth while in the middle of the short video translation process. I went to the webpage a few times to see if she was still working on the translation. She did manage to make the subtitles and a couple of days later started labour to bring to natural birth a healthy baby girl.
Also Nikos from Greece also attended our call-out for subtitling the promotional video for our crowdfunding campaign. We met him in Greece about a year ago, where we interviewed him at the Pelitis annual seed-giving festival while trampling mud during a natural building workshop and talking about building community alternatives for a better society, with our own hands and feet. And there’s many other stories because every person that showed themselves available for voluntary work with us has good stories and ideas to share.
Of course that from all of them I have to talk about Erik D’Haese which I met back in 2011 in a Reclaim the Seeds gathering in Torino, Italy, where a group of people gathered to learn together and informally organize around seeds. Erik came to this meeting with loads of traditional varieties of seeds from the cooperative Longo Mai where he lives in Southern France, that makes an incredible work with seed saving. Erik is Belgian but lives in France already for some years, he’s a musician, he grows food for his community and participates in the cooperative free radio Zinzine and writes as a journalist for independent publications. I had a gut feeling when I met him and impulsively invited him to work with me on the SEED ACT film. Which he accepted, although we didn’t had any specific functions defined. I only had lots of ideas and plans in my mind at that time but still hadn’t started to shoot. Erik turned out to be a dynamic help, helping with the production among the francophone community, and bringing two of the ideas of acts to the films, one was made in the Longo Mai community where he lives, and I was visiting for a while.
I resonated strongly with the ideals of this community that exists for 40 years already and is a unique example of hands-on cultivation of ancestral cereals and veggie seeds with strong socio-political awareness. It’s an incredibly beautiful place in the French Provence region. But Erik is Belgian and from his city of origin, Leuven, he showed me the powerful case of resistance against GMO potatoes that raised the discussion about GMOs in Belgium, and that also will be one of the “acts” of the film.
We also had more people helping us to shoot the scenes, some of them I haven’t even met in person, like the ones that shot with Erik’s assistance in Belgium, but to whom I am extremely grateful for their will and motivation to be part of this. We had Christophe Rolin, Olivier Conrardy, Maëlle Grand Bossi and Jean Amoris filming with him. And in France also had the support of Daniel Solomon making light and Olga Widmer, both filming once, and on another occasion lending me her own professional equipment. A couple of old friends in Portugal, Pedro Rodrigues and Carlota Premazzi also came with us to shoot the meeting of the Portuguese association of seed savers, Colher para Semear.
Then we have the musicians. We’ve already mentioned Erik, who also recorded sound, and whom I invited to compose original songs for the film. He has been composing for the Belgian and French acts in Sweeden with Jonas Cambien, Håkan Aase and Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard. Erik is also part of a band already with several generations, Commedia Mundi, born in Longo Mai community in France, and we will be having also a couple of songs in the film.
We also met Kleopas Namaste and his band in Pelitis Seed exchange festival when we went to film in Greece last year, and decided to invite him to record a traditional Greek song that sounds like the incredible mountain landscapes of northern Greece.
Gonçalo Sarmento is a Portuguese musician and composer of world music that also has been composing a piece for the film besides helping out with the sound recording of some of the acts. He’s a member of a couple of Portuguese bands I appreciate, Terra Livre and Terrakota, both inspirational bands that play for change in society, and it is possible that we will be having some songs of theirs in the film. We also work together in Kanoa, an audiovisual project. Well I don’t play music, I create video landscapes of atmospheres I captured while travelling the world in recent years. But Gonçalo creates music together with other two great musicians of the world music scene, the guitarist Alex Louza and the Guinean percussionist Gueladjo Sané. We will also be having a piece of Kanoa sounds as a soundscape in the film.
As you can see, it’s a lot of people making this film possible. But one of them has been there since the beginning. I have to mention Lanka, a great friend that was the person I first invited to come along with me in the adventure of making this film. Lanka is Dutch but lives in Portugal and has been a grassroots campaign coordinator for seed freedom in Portugal. We’ve been working together for several years in this campaign and have lots of fun doing it in an informal but highly dynamic way that mixes southern and northern european characteristics in many crazy manners. She is the executive producer of the film and is the kind of producer that does whatever needed with super multi-tasking skills in order to work well. She’s been one of the main engines that help keep this project moving.
What’s your approximate budget?
Ideally this film would have a budget of around 100.000 euros, this would mean everyone participating in making the movie would have been paid and we would still have a reasonable budget to promote the film after editing. But, in grassroots, independent filmmaking, there are no ideal conditions :-), so we have been surviving from phase to phase with a lot, lot less. We have raised enough money (about 16.000) for basic equipment and our travels and other expenses at the shoots (among others we received seed money from a Swiss Foundation, Fondation pour une Terre Humaine for equipment and organised a crowdfunding to pay for our main shoots) , but pre-production (about 5.000 euros) was fully financed from our own pocket whereas until now, no one received a salary. At the moment, to finish and promote the film, we need 15.000 euros, most of which to pay for editors and editing equipment, of which we have managed so far to raise about 5.000.
How could any of those watching the movie become ambassadors and spread the idea for seed freedom?
Everyone can and should take the step to spread the idea of Seed Freedom. It is something that influences us all, our societies, and the diversity of life on our planet, now and for the future generations. Once the film is finished, its stories and act will be released in the web for free so people everywhere can watch these “acts” and get inspired to take action as these brave people did. The stories will give you ideas of a diversity of ways of how to get involved with seed saving and also spread the idea for seed freedom, both locally and globally. This is why I am making this film.
There will be resources and suggestions on the website for group viewings, discussions and actions.