It is not just the farmers or a handful of environmentalists who are apprehensive over the disappearance of a humongous number of rice varieties from the country. Now, the world of art too feels a responsibility. The Kochi-Biennale had an installation with over 250 rice varieties by artist Amar Kanwar, who threw open a few questions on land-grabbing, lost rice varieties, erosion of traditional knowledge and ecology.
Now, it is the turn of film-maker Suma Josson, who will screen her film ‘In Search of Our Lost Seeds’ on April 23 at Thiruvananthapuram Press Club.
“For me, making the film was an eye opener since I never realised the magnitude and serious ramifications of what was being done to rice, our staple diet,” said Suma, a native of Kottayam, now based in Mumbai.
The film, ‘In Search of Our Lost Seeds’, traces the destruction of the agro-biodiversity as well as knowledge systems that has eventually led to the crisis faced by farmers in India. “Right from Green Revolution until today, in the name of increasing yield and food security for a growing population, lie after lie is being thrust upon us and in the process a whole nation is being taken for a ride,” said Suma.
The film focuses on the efforts put in by the traditional paddy seed savers in the three states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. This gave Suma her biggest challenge too.
“Each farmer and each seed-saver in the three states had his or her own story to tell. My problem was how to put the various issues together and make the film that was compact, compelling as well question the dictatorial regulations that were being imposed on both the providers and the consumers,” said Suma.
Suma’s familiarity with the subject of agriculture - as she had been focusing her lens on farmers for a long time - and a tight script, saw her through, getting the film done in less than a month.
The plight and hopes of farmers have always been a topic that Suma pursued faithfully and many of her documentaries and films, including I Want My Father Back, Raghuvanshi - The Seed Man, Niyamgiri, You are Still Alive, Janmadinam and Saree had won appreciation internationally.
“After making films on agricultural issues and meeting farmers who have taken risks and beaten a different path, that is practising organic farming and using traditional seeds, one hopes that this will be a movement that will catch on before it is too late. Either we do this now or we allow industrial farming to take over our agriculture as is being done in the Western countries,” said Suma, who is also worried that farmers have no marketing and distribution networks and get very low prices for their produce.
The script is by Suma herself, camera by K G Jayan and editing is by Nisha Josson.