Picking up where “Food, Inc.” left off, “Think Global, Act Rural” examines the horrors of industrialized agriculture on a planet-wide scale. Finding the same perfect storm of catastrophic man-made circumstances everywhere, from France to India to Morocco to Brazil, helmer Coline Serreau interviews farmers, microbiologists and agricultural engineers who measure the vastness of the problem and the limited efficacy of small-scale solutions. Serreau, known for commercial outings like “Three Men and a Cradle,” here highlights her experts’ amiable charisma as they expound on destructive practices and propose organic alternatives. This single-sided advocacy docu should resonate in niche play.
Docu paints a series of grim pictures: an abandoned French countryside; 150,000 farmers committing suicide in India; jobless generations in Morocco; a once self-sufficient food chain reduced to a single-crop commodity dependent on chemical enhancements and large machinery; and dead soil and sick plants wherever one looks.
Many dubious American practices described in “Food, Inc.” become positively lethal when exported elsewhere. Thus, the outlawing of hundreds or even thousands of varieties of any given fruit or vegetable in favor of a few genetically altered hybrids not only results in crops that cannot produce their own seeds (thus requiring they be bought from monopolist multinationals), but often replaces species perfectly adapted to a given habitat with species that demand copious water in arid environments or expensive, toxic pesticides.
Economically, the situation is doubly exploitative. Brazilian agronomist Ana Primavesi lays out the chain: Agriculture is forced to buy everything from industry; industry pockets the profit; agriculture loses money and must be bailed out by governments using public funds.
In a counterpoint to this regulated, mass commodification of agriculture, described exclusively in terms of its egregious aftereffects, Serreau showcases thriving interconnected natural ecosystems. Microbiologists Lydia and Claude Bourguignon magnify an untreated clump of earth to reveal a complex world of thousands of busy organisms whose constant motion aerates the soil and allows plant growth; Serreau’s camera pauses for long moments to capture the microscopic spectacle. An organic farm in the Ukraine provides a bounteous repast, while a rice paddy in India is sprayed with a beneficial if unappetizing hand-mixed amalgam of manure, butter and cow urine.
Serreau, who made her debut in 1977 with feminist docu “Mais qu’est-ce qu’elles veulent,” highlights the gender implications of the radical shift from farming as sustainable nourishment — the only traditional realm of feminine power in many cultures — to paternalistic models of commodity exchange.