9x9 Film Festival: Nine Little Films About Food & Farming

The nine films featured in the '9x9 Film Festival'—created by The Source Project and presented here on Common Dreams in partnership with /The Rules project—have been made for one reason: to help people understand the reality of what’s really happening to the world’s food and farming systems, and why.

As the likes of the World Bank and Bill and Melinda Gates foundation begin to transform the development sector into a business driven model, the positive stories and propaganda that support that model are dominating the story of development. By creating a short films that can then be easily watched and shared on various social media platforms, we are able to not only help counter an imbalance of misinformation within development media but also stimulate consciousness on issues that otherwise would pass unnoticed.

At the heart of all these stories is agriculture, a system, not only of food production but also one that maintains our ecosystem, our cultures, our health and the very survival of humanity.

Not a Very Green Revolution ~ Punjab, India

We interviewed food policy analyst Devinder Sharma in Delhi where he explained to us the event that was ‘the Green Revolution’ and how over the past 50 years, has changed agriculture more than it has over the past 10 thousand. A system designed and developed, not for long-term food security or sustainability but for the control and manipulation of our global food systems.

For the first few decades the world celebrated the Indian government’s new corporate-driven policy as statistics were mutated to convince the world of this modern technology’s success. The reality however is that in recent years, the true cost of this ‘experiment’ has begun to become ever more apparent to the farmers and communities of Punjab, the ‘Bread Basket’ of India.

Natural systems and an agricultural philosophy ~ Punjab, India

It has been proved, beyond doubt that the natural systems of farming benefit, not only human health but also the health of the environment in a long term and sustainable way. This was one of the first films we made as part of the Source Project and for obvious reasons shot it in Punjab, linking it to the story of the ‘Green Revolution’ and the legacy we now see beginning to be played out across India. This is a narrative that looks at the cause, the symptom and finally a possible solution by one of the more progressive farmers in Punjab, Amarjeet Sharma. 

Adolfo, a future farm ~ El Salvador

Adolfo is possibly one of the most dynamic, progressive and positive farmers I have ever met. Faced with a changing climate, Adolfo has begun to plant over 60 different crops on his land, some which will thrive in times of flood, others that will survive drought. With rice planted in rows between his indigenous drought tolerant corn, he is guaranteed food for his family and an income all year round. With Central America already feeling the effects of Global Warming, Adolfo is one of a new generation of farmers developing truly long term sustainable systems.

A Commons Sense ~ West Bengal/Odisha India

Dr Debal Deb is possibly one of, if not, the most progressive scientists working in the field of agriculture. Having already saved over 1200 varieties of indigenous rice, Dr Deb continues to work, more or less un-funded. This film was a result of a speech he made in Kolkata on the opening of his new lab, enabling him to sequence plant DNA, publish it and therefore protect it for future generations. From water tolerant (rice that will grow in 10 feet of water), saline tolerant (rice that can grow in the sea), to drought tolerant rice varieties that can survive without irrigation, Dr Deb not only conserves but also protects them from bio-piracy. His approach is a holistic one where he uses the field and the farmers to grow and protect these valuable varieties.

Mother's Earth ~ Odisha, India

When we think of farmers, we tend to think of men, but the reality is that at least 50% of all the world’s food is produced by women. In one of the more remote areas of Odisha, eastern India live small communities of subsistence farmers, who, over the last few years have managed to return to a system of cooperative, zero-input agriculture.

This was a system that was used by all agricultural communities not so long ago until the event of the ‘Green Revolution’ that changed everything. Now, rather than surviving on an economically driven mono-crop system, the women of the community plant a variety of vegetables supplying them and their family with not only an income but also a diverse source of nutrition.

A Shifting Culture ~ Kashmir, India
Agriculture in so much of the world is still so strongly attached to the rich and sustaining cultures but as children begin to be educated in systems driven primarily by economic concerns, cultural landscapes are beginning to change the aspirations and expectations, mutating their perceptions of this changing world. Children who were once entertained and educated by their environment now seem stimulated only by their mobile phones and television. Some of the village elders in this small Kashmiri village told us that that traditional corn varieties that they have been planting for hundreds of years and used to make highly nutritious flat breads from were almost gone, as children demanded non nutritious processed white bread from the village store.

A Forest of Fortune ~ Borneo, Indonesia 
This is a film about managed agro-forestry in Borneo where coal mines are ripping through the island. A few years ago one of Indonesia’s largest coal mining companies approached the chief of a community, Ayal Kasal. They offered him $200,000 for the community land, suggesting that this money would be able to sustain the community but Ayal knew better. He had seen other communities that had sold their land and heard their stories. In this short film, he explains the reasoning behind his decision and his philosophy that puts his community and their future generations at the center of his planning.

The Keralan Cowboy ~ Kerala, India
I really think that short documentaries need to be more character lead and ‘The Keralan Cowboy’ is a perfect example of this. This is far more than just a nice film about a nice man who is in love with nice cows. This is a film about the importance of bio-diversity and questioning the economically driven government policy that will have a profound effect on our society and environment. Linked to this film is an article that waspublished in Tehlka magazine a few years ago, telling the story of misinformation and a decision making process developed by a people totally detached from the real issues being faced by society and agriculture. A shocking report on the incompetence by government policy makers and an industry driven by control and profit.

A Festival of Seeds ~ UK
Last year while visiting London, we were asked to record some interviews at the London Seed Festival organized by Gaia Foundation. Once the interviews had been completed, we went through our footage that we have shot over past few years and used some of those shots to bring the narrative to life. This is a good example of how as a small organisation, we are able to make films on a very small budget, telling stories that would otherwise not be told. In this film are some of most progressive voices in the UK’s movement against corporate food plutocracy.