Food in Film: "Seeds of Time"

by Steven Behling


It would seem clear from the topic of this blog that I love food. But I also love independent and foreign films, be they short, documentary, or feature. I try to make room in my schedule to attend at least a few festivals each year, giving me an opportunity to travel the globe from the convenience of my theater seat for just a fraction of the cost it would take me to get there by train, plane, or automobile. Through independent and foreign film, we explore a variety of cultures, languages, and landscapes, dipping our toes into the global experience of humanity. At most large festivals, there are typically one or two films which focus on the world of food. Past favorites include More Than Honey and A Place at the Table.

At this year's Seattle International Film Festival, a documentary entitled Seeds of Time highlights the global crisis of the rapid decline in seed varieties from which we can grow food for ourselves and our children, now and in the future. Regardless of your views on climate change, government funding of agriculture, GMOs, or sustainable food production, I believe we can all get behind the effort to ensure that we preserve and maintain access to seeds which have produced crops resistant to known and unknown perils, and which tie us to our ancestors in a shared experience of food and tradition. 

Inspired by a New Yorker article featuring one of the documentary's main characters, Cary Fowler, filmmaker Sandy McLeod chooses not to spend her time pointing fingers at those who might be held responsible for the seed crisis; rather, she highlights efforts at seed preservation past and present at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, the Pavlovsk Agricultural Station in Russia, and the emerging collaboration between the Quechua and the International Potato Center in Peru. The film inspires viewers to get involved, which at the most basic level includes participation in seed exchanges that promise to both reduce the likelihood of further crop extinction and introduce the backyard farmer (or porch, or windowsill, depending on your situation and the necessary growing conditions for the plant) to unexpected colors, shapes, textures, and flavors in fruits, vegetables, herbs and grains. Click on the graphic below to obtain additional information on seed exchange and preservation, and to obtain or share heirloom seeds.