Bitter Seeds follows a season in a village from sowing to harvest. Ram Krishna, a cotton-farmer, must borrow heavily to afford the mounting costs of modern farming. He must put up his land as collateral. When his crop is attacked by pests, he must do whatever he can to avoid losing the family land. Adding to his burden is another duty – his daughter has reached marrying age, and he must find the money for an expensive dowry. Ram Krishna has just become a candidate for joining the ranks of the farmers who commit suicide in despair.
I believe Globalization has become the overarching theme of our times. It clearly has many positive aspects that have improved our lives. But mostly, the dynamics of Globalization are working for the rich and powerful, for those who make the rules, enabling multinational corporations to expand their reach and governments to extend their control.
My Globalization Trilogy focuses on the current and emerging economic superpowers: U.S., China and India. The Trilogy begins with us here in the West, and then journeys back down the production-consumption chain, each film peeling off another layer.
Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town explores consumerism in the U.S. China Blueinvestigates the sweatshop labor conditions in the manufacturing of the “Made in China” clothes we all buy. Bitter Seeds goes further back to the raw materials – looking at the suicide crisis of farmers in India who grow the cotton exported to China’s garment factories to be used for the clothes sold in the West.
Each film tells a story of individual lives, whether of small town residents trying to keep out a megastore, or a farmer fighting to keep possession of his land. Even though by global forces far beyond anyone’s control shape these lives, I don’t find the films dispiriting. Each film portrays protagonists who struggle despite the odds, who pursue their dreams, who leave us both awed and outraged, causing many viewers to ask when the lights go up: “What can I do to help?”
It has taken me twelve years to make these films. I didn’t know when I began that this would be a trilogy, or I would never have started.
I’m glad so many people have seen these films. We’ve had screenings in over 100 film festivals, theatrical runs on three continents, tv broadcasts on 35 channels and official DVD editions in ten languages.
Winning 20 awards has been a great honor. But most precious were some of the reactions I got from viewers, like the handwritten letters from inner-city kids in Oakland, California, who never thought before about how their jeans were made; or the offer from a Polish teacher to send money to a girl in China who can’t afford the train ticket back home. That’s Globalization at its best.