Netflix’s latest documentary on climate change, Kiss the Ground, directed by Josh Tickell and Rebecca Tickell, and narrated by actor and environmental activist Woody Harrelson, traces the history of mankind’s relationship with the earth and its dependence on soil for sustenance. It triumphantly presents an effective means to mitigate the pressing crisis of climate change.
Kiss the Ground is unwavering in its focus on this primal and intimate relationship between man and earth, that has gradually grown exploitative. Shots of tender lush green plants sprouting out the earth recur in this documentary that reveals with awe the immensity of life that the soil holds.
“Soil contains a universe of life,” goes Harrelson’s voice-over, as we see the formless microbial life alive and rich in a handful of soil. Kiss the Ground equates man and soil in their role in saving the world from an apocalypse. Whilst stressing on this notion, the film furthers our understanding of how real and rapid climate change is, and how close we are to harm’s end.
The interviews of conservationists and regenerative farmers are interspersed with grainy black and white footage from Nazi Germany, video records of Roosevelt’s visit to Texas following the great man-made disaster that struck American West, and newsreels in which stoic newsreaders reporting on wildfires and floods, question authorities on actions taken to address climate change.
The documentary ushers in a sense of history to communicate the gravity of the issue and place the potential and challenges of the solution in an essential socio-political context. As conservational agronomist Ray Archuleta says of his mission in the film, “The message is simple but getting it out there is difficult. We have a social problem; we have an education issue and until we get that right, we can’t fix our ecological issues.” Tickells’ documentary probes the interconnection between socioeconomic and ecological issues by alerting us to the resultant problems of flawed agricultural practices including migration, displacement, poverty, terrorism and social disorder.
One of the most haunting sequences of Kiss the Ground is when a farmer walks in silence around his empty, parched land. Its arid, lifeless scape very much symbolises the old man’s weariness and despair. Graphics show the fast disappearing greenery in the world, to ominous music bearing strains of melancholy.
Instructive and inspiring, the documentary delves into the viabilities and promises a solution to rethink modern agriculture through real-life accounts of regenerative ranchers and conservationists. When the film shifts to a positive note, there is a shot of a blazing orange sun rising from the towering mountains and the song ‘I believe in miracles’ plays along, as we move to sunny California where change-makers show us how healing soil can help heal climate and hence the world. The documented stories of change exude the triumphant joy of man and nature flourishing together.
There is a strong promise of utopia in the spirit of Kiss the Ground that inspires us towards everyday solutions like healthy eating and management of food waste. You begin to see that the most feasible, fruitful solutions cannot be arrived at without getting your hands dirty. The title, Kiss the Ground, and the film itself denote a sense of reverence to the soil to which we are bound by gratitude.
There is also subtle romance in the act of kissing the ground, for nature has long been man’s muse and lover. Maria Rodale from the Rodale Institute affirms towards the end in a voice trembling with emotion, “It is not about politics, it is not about religion. It is about love. If you love somebody, you want to understand them, take care of them, protect them and keep them safe. That is what we are all here to do.”