Seeds of Time

News and Press

"The urgency of expanding the world’s seed portfolio is made eminently clear"


May 21, 2015

Sometimes the best a documentary can do is put an issue on the public’s radar, and, as if to illustrate that idea, “Seeds of Time” opens with enormous close-ups of asteroidlike seeds floating in a void. But as the director, Sandy McLeod, goes on to track the efforts of a crusader for crop diversity, this often dry film gets stuck on certain points and leaves seed preservation feeling oddly abstract.

Cary Fowler, soft-spoken and polite, discusses his work with international organizations to counteract the plummet in crop diversity since the rise of modern agriculture. We also visit the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, a pioneering seed institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, and a seed-collectors’ exchange in Iowa. A recurring strand of the film follows rural Peruvians who are receiving international aid with growing potatoes, which yields some eye candy through their colorful traditional clothing and the mountain backdrops.

The urgency of expanding the world’s seed portfolio is made eminently clear, but the film falters at explaining how these preventive efforts would translate into an impact on a grand scale. The visually inert conference meetings and the sometimes stagy Peru segments mainly tend to reiterate the importance of the subject. Ms. McLeod initially features so much voice-over by Mr. Fowler that the first part of the film feels like a lecture on tape.

Perhaps it’s a hazard tied to a subject, seeds, which are all about potential, but Ms. McLeod’s film feels naggingly diffuse and insufficiently vivid in evoking diversity.

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