The bitter seed of corporate greed

Durban talent Press 2012 participant Sihle Mthembu reviews Micha X Peled's latest documentary BITTER SEEDS, which explores the epidemic of farmer suicides in India.

Micha X Peled's BITTER SEEDS.

The average feature film at this year's Durban International Film Festival is around 90 minutes long. It's difficult to comprehend that, every 30 minutes, a farmer in India commits suicide. This fact forms the basis of Micha X Peled's latest documentary BITTER SEEDS.

In the film Peled explores some of the diverse reasons why farmers in that country kill themselves and reveals the seldom talked-about relationship between big agricultural companies and small farmers. Bitter Seeds focuses mainly on a small agrarian community in which more than half a million farmers have killed themselves over the last 16 years. The film identifies the fact that the biggest challenge faced by small scale farmers is that they cannot compete with the big commercial producers. Often they are forced off of their land or bought out very cheaply.

This is a film that does not seek to create distance between itself and its subject matter. Instead Peled has selected several endearing characters that add a strong human element as well as providing a series of back-stories to the film, most notably Manjusha, who a young, optimistic journalist from the region, who tries to get answers as to why the massacre of farmers is allowed to continue. She soon finds out that the agricultural industry is polarized by corruption and shortcuts.

This rivetting documentary is the final part of Peled’s Globalisation Trilogy, and is a worthy addition to a body of work that helps to put faces to the appalling statistics and does so very gently.