Bitter Seeds

Bitter Seeds \ Micha X. Pered
Official trailer

In India, a man sleeping on a mat on the floor stirs, woken up by his wife’s bustling morning activities. Just like you or I, he tosses and turns, yearning for another few minutes of sleep. Yet his mind is overflowing with worries, and matters of life and death. The cotton he reaps from his farm that morning will make or break his near future.

This third instalment of the “Globalization Trilogy”(preceded by 2001’s Store Wars: When Wal-Mart comes to Town and 2005’s China Blue) by the award-winning director and founder of Teddy Bear Films focuses on the village of Telung Takli in the Indian state of Vidarbha. India is the largest farming community in the world, but during the last 16 years the country has lost a quarter-million farmers to suicide, largely because of crop failures and skyrocketing debt.

The film profiles local farmer Ram Krishna Kopulwar, his wife, two daughters and his son. Like the vast majority of India’s cotton farmers, Ram Krishna purchases BT cotton seeds (genetically modified by Monsanto) by leasing his final possession, his land, to a moneylender. Bitter Seeds captures the Kopulwars’ rugged journey and their parched cotton plantation in stark detail.

Director Pele’s quest is aided by an ambitious, novice journalist, Manjusha Ambarwar, the 18-year-old daughter of the former village head and a farmer of Telung Takli, whose life was also severed by the weight of debt. Ambarwar’s discoveries about the farmer suicides, the traditional knowledge of the village elders and the plight of modern Indian farmers are woven together with rare happy moments. The film’s combination of harsh truths and raw reality has been recognized with awards from film festivals in Amsterdam, Seoul and the US.

Genetically modified plantations can be found worldwide, and India is only one cog in the system. Bitter Seeds is an eye-opener and a plea for change to people all over the world, no matter where they lay their head at night.

Bitter Seeds, Micha X. Pele, India: Teddy Bear Films, 2011, 88 minutes

This documentary was included in our Around the World in 10 Docs map feature in Art & Media, Issue 39.3. Subscribe now to get more reviews in your mailbox!

Reviewer Information

Semini is a graduate of the Environment and Resource Studies program at the University of Waterloo and a former A\J editorial intern.

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