Jim Becket, Camilla Becket’s The Seeds of Vandana Shiva is an important documentary, not because it sheds light on one of the most empowering eco-activists this side of the planet, but because it debugs a lot of things that we would rather consider absolutely normal. From defacing the ‘Green Revolution’ and its adverse effects on the planet to leading us to the current, most horrific threat that looms over the traditional way of farming, the documentary is informative, empowering, and inspiring in ways that make it necessary.
But before we get to the GMOs and the bad modern agricultural practices, the Beckets introduce us to the fierce woman at the center of this film. With a big red bindi on her forehead, a rousing smile, and a beautiful set of sarees that now define her personality, we are introduced to Vandana Shiva, who can’t be simply termed as a scholar or an eco-activist because there are so many roles that she inhabits or wants to in the future. The documentary takes up a journalistic approach towards allowing us to understand Shiva and what made her dedicate her life to the planet. However, unlike other reportage of this sort, it is Shiva that the Beckets put at the center of narrating this tale.
The woman tells her own account with occasional divergence to other people who have known her through all the years of activism. While it might feel self-serving, I think it only makes the story more captivating because of how charismatic Vandana is as a person. From her role in the ‘Chipko Movement’ to her little-known role in overturning the patriarchal law of a child’s custody in the dismantling of an Indian marriage, there’s just so much we don’t know about her. An author of over 20 books, I think Vandana’s most important role in history would be being an eco-warrior who championed the seed movement in India and many other countries. According to her, the modern agricultural practices that everyone – from scientific experts to the government has accepted are, in fact, leading the world to an eventual doom. So, a lot of her fight includes making people aware of the need to preserve seeds and harken back to the traditional ways of farming.
Considering the recent farmers’ strike that took place in India (which the documentary doesn’t mention because it was shot before it), the urgency with which her ideas feel relevant cannot be dismissed. Climate Change is so real now that we are beyond the idea of educating people about its ill effects. Among many other things, The Seeds of Vandana Shiva also tells us that it’s time to take things into our own hands and do the saving one step at a time.
That said, The Seeds of Vandana Shiva does falter in its representation of the central figure and who she is beyond her activism. The film also half-heartedly addresses what criticism has been thrown towards Vandana and does not pay heed to actually debug or dive deeper into the conflict that the right-wing has against her stance. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is an inspiring account of a woman who is literally a force of nature to be reckoned with.