‘GMO OMG’ PLANTS SEEDS OF KNOWLEDGE
by Cord Montgomery
Arena Cinema | 1625 N Las Palmas Ave | Hollywood, CA 90028
Like most Americans, I begrudgingly wave the white flag of surrender when it comes to healthy eating–mainly due to financial reasons, but also because I know corporations like Monsanto have their genetically modified finger in my mouth when choosing my food and drink. Many aspects of what we put on our plate, whether it be the farm our corn is harvested from or even the choice of organic or artificial at the grocery store, is often beyond our control. Unless we farm our own crops and raise our own livestock, we simply don’t know what’s in our food. And even for the most well-informed foodie, there is a catch-22 due to high costs of organic food being much less appetizing than the short-term savings of a Slim Jim or other such mystery meat. Yet, this is nothing new; it has been happening for a long time, frequently under the public’s noses, so do we really have choices when it comes to what we eat?
Father and rookie filmmaker Jeremy Seifert seeks out to answer that question in his comical and eye-opening debut documentary GMO OMG. A film that originally hatched from his parental concerns about what he’s feeding his children and to satisfy a curiosity about what genetically modified organisms (GMOs) really are, if they have lasting health effects, or is it all just widespread hysteria and paranoia—something as uniquely American as apple pie.
The crusade for answers involves a series of interviews with politicians, seed salesman and trips across America and the world—some leading as far as an international seed vault concealed within a Norwegian mountain. But the film, at its core, mainly serves as a journey of Seifert’s to educate his children, who have a love of collecting seeds, why they should be concerned about new genetically modified seeds on the market.
Interposed between interviews are animated segments explaining the more complicated issues that arise regarding the food industry, with facts and statistics that often anger and shock—frequently concerning the corporation and agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto, a company that has patents on genetically-engineered super seeds they designed and massively distributed to most commercial farms. It does sound a bit Orwellian that one giant company has a hand in almost everything we eat, but it is a stark reality of our modern market and the documentary sheds light on Monsanto’s corrupt practices ranging from providing farmers and post-earthquake Haitians with non-renewable, parasitical seeds at the expense of agricultural sovereignty, leading as far as 500 million dollars worth of lobbying in Washington D.C. to strike down bills asking for the labeling of GMOs, ensuring status quo and hindering Americans’ freedom-of-choice.
Despite the bleakness and seeming defeat over our food that Seifert exposes he tries to keep his documentary light-hearted, optimistic and filled with humor in addition to prying answers—and he succeeds. One particular scene has Seifert comparing how his mother would run through cornfields to play as a child—but due to worry about modern corn possessing GMOs, Seifert and his boys dress up in hazmat suits and gas masks in order to be safe whilst frolicking in the cornrows. It is this wedging of sharp wit with eye-opening evidence that keeps the film fresh and entertaining—yet at the same time never loses sight of keeping the film grounded in its roots: a father wanting what is best for his family—with candid footage of his wife and boys fishing, playing and generally enjoying life amidst the surrounding madness.
The only real complaint I have about the film—besides the goofy title—is the under-representation of his wife. His photogenic children play an extremely large role throughout, but his wife is often confined to the background of scenes, never really providing substantial insight about her concerns as a mother, just a few lines and smirks about her husband’s quirky obsession with GMOs. Also, Seifert’s narration feels a bit overused at times, but the documentary succeeds where many others fail: it is concise. Never does it feel sloppily edited, containing extraneous scenes, but it is rather precise in its narrative with an energetic and lightning-fast pace that not only entertains, but also doesn’t undercut the power of its message by being too short.
Ultimately, the documentary prods Americans to question what contributes to our dwindling culture, mainly our self-sacrifice of our values with mere convenience. Near the closing credits, a young Haitian woman performs a traditional dance, confident and unyielding, embodying her proud culture and traditions, a representative of a people who burned Monsanto seeds donated after the devastating 2010 earthquake in direct defiance of the corporation, and as a symbol of their unwillingness to lose their agricultural sovereignty. Seifert’s film challenges Americans to adopt the same revolutionary spirit concerning Monsanto, no longer having our support for the uprooting of our values by big business. It promotes long-lasting change with small actions, driving home the point that something as simple as planting a seed in someone’s mind, or even in our own backyards, can grow into a movement much larger than anticipated and long overdue.
GMO OMG will be playing at the Arena Cinema in Hollywood through October 4th. Come out and support a great venue and provocative, independent filmmaking.
Good sites to check out: The Non-GMO Project | Monsanto | What’s on My Food?
The PRESS RELEASE
by Phillip Sokoloff
ARENA CINEMA IN HOLLYWOOD SCREENS “GMO OMG”;
NEW DOCUMENTARY OPENS SEPTEMBER 20
The GMO in the title “GMO OMG” stands for Genetically Modified Organisms.
Today in the United States, by the simple acts of feeding ourselves, we are unwittingly participating in the largest experiment ever conducted on human beings. Each of us unknowingly consumes genetically engineered food on a daily basis. The risks and effects to our health and the environment are largely unknown. Yet more and more studies are being conducted around the world, which only provide even more reason for concern. We are the oblivious guinea pigs for wide-scale experimentation of modern biotechnology. “GMO OMG” tells the story of a father’s discovery of GMOs in relationship to his three young children and the world around him.
“GMO OMG” follows one family’s struggle to live and eat without participating in an unhealthy, unjust, and destructive food system.
“GMO OMG” is written, directed and produced by Jeremy Seifert. His previous documentary, “Dive!,” concerned the scandal of good food discarded by supermarkets. It won the Washington, D.C. Independent Film Festival Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary.
Los Angeles-based filmmaker Seifert has constructed his new documentary around the fate of a family, which should resonate with parents and families everywhere.
“GMO OMG.” A new documentary by Jeremy Seifert. A production of Compeller Pictures. Distributed by Submarine Deluxe. Color, 90 minutes. At Arena Cinema, 1625 N. Las Palmas Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028. September 20- September 26, 2013. Nightly at 7:30 and 9:15, except Saturday at 3:45, 5:30, 7:30 and 9:15; and Sunday at 3:00, 5:00, 6:45 and 8:20. Admission: $12.00. Advance ticketing: http://arenascreen.com . Information: (323) 306-0676.
Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert will appear in person for a talk-back following the 7:30 screening on Saturday, September 21.
Convenient parking is available for $5 (with validation) next door and across the street.
Arena Cinema is Hollywood’s newest venue for independent film, intimate in presentation and adventurous in programming.