World-renowned agriculturalist Cary Fowler made waves in the late aughts with the opening of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a project he spearheaded. Located in Norway and preserving hundreds of thousands of seed varieties in ideal frozen conditions, the practically indestructible vault isn’t only a means of conservation, but a stern foreshadowing of the seemingly imminent end of days. As detailed in Sandy McLeod’s Seeds of Time, agriculture around the world is becoming increasingly endangered, due in part to climate change and dwindling varieties of crops. At the forefront of the conflict is Fowler, who McLeod follows around the world as he speaks at length on the statistics of the problem and meets various people afflicted by the stunning drop in agricultural productivity. But the first-person accounts of these individuals are rarely the focus of the film’s vision, which, aside from a brief spotlight on the plight of Peruvian potato farmer, is too distracted by the beauty of landscape: McLeod photographs each country the film jets to, from Nepal to Norway to Peru, with a keen eye for elaborate and beautiful compositions, such as a shot of hikers combing through a hilltop during magic hour that looks disarmingly otherworldly. In one startling moment, an agriculture representative from the Philippines chokes up during a speech at a conference about the loss of one of their seed banks from a natural disaster, only to never regain her composure. The moment presents a human face to the problem, and is a refreshing respite from the film’s overload of statistics and widescreen landscape shots, which perpetually threaten to render those individuals most affected by changes in agricultural output and productivity as inconsequential.
Score:Director: Cary Fowler Screenwriter: Sandy McLeod Distributor: Kino Lorber Running Time: 77 min Rating: NR Year: 2013 Buy: Video