Documentaries about food production are often hard-hitting and can sometimes leave a bad taste in viewers’ mouths.
© GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY
Millefiore Clarkes, who is owner of One Thousand Flowers Productions in Belfast, is showing her latest film, Island Green, at the Farm Centre, 420 University Ave., Charlottetown, on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
But Prince Edward Island documentarian Millefiore Clarkes’ latest film, Island Green, is a 25-minute poignant poetic piece that contemplates the future of farming in the province.
Featuring stirring poetry by P.E.I. singer, songwriter and poet Tanya Davis and Clarkes’ intimate imagery, this documentary celebrates the work of all farmers, while exploring the concept of an all-organic Island.
“I wanted to give people a little portal into what it is to be in touch with the land the way farmers are,” Clarkes says of her 25-minute film, which will be screened during a simultaneous multi-city hybrid cinema event that will take place in Victoria, B.C., and Charlottetown at 7 p.m. local time on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
Island Green includes stories of some of P.E.I.’s most innovative organic farmers, including sixth-generation farmers Margie Loo and her late brother, Raymond Loo, who was a longtime champion of the organic farming movement on P.E.I., as well as fourth-generation farmer Mark Bernard, who converted his family’s conventional farm to organic.
Written and directed by Clarkes and produced by Paul McNeill for the National Film Board (NFB), Island Green started out as a project pitch to this public film and digital media producer and distributor three years ago.
“Considering the fact that I live in the country in P.E.I. I was pretty unaware (of these issues), actually. And then I went to interview Raymond . . . . Talking to him, he was definitely the clincher, the inspiration. He had a way of stating things that was just so even tempered. He didn’t seem judgmental or preachy. You could tell he was passionate about what he believed, but it was also based on experience and fact and open-minded research,” she says.
“He knew people wouldn’t buy into what he was saying unless he could show them how it would help them, whether it be through economics and marketing, through health or whatever. He knew he wasn’t going to sell people (on the idea) because he thought it was the right thing to do.”
Clarkes connected with Davis through the Everything Matters Rally in Charlottetown in 2011 that she and a group of others organized.
“I got in touch with Tanya and asked her if she’d write something (for the rally). She wrote something that morning in a coffee shop, then came to the rally and read what she’d just written. (Our) jaws were hanging open and I was half crying, just inspired with her words. I think that made me realize she would be a great asset to this film,” Clarkes says.
“I just sent her a laundry list of the things that I wanted the poem to talk about because it is, in a way, the narration of the movie, but obviously it’s poetry so it’s a little more abstract . . . . And she sent me back a poem that was just perfect.”
Clarkes’ original concept for Island Green was that the land and the life of the farmers be the main subjects.
“Even though the issue is organic farming, the state of farming and the crossroads that we’re at obviously in talks of practices and marketing and the potential for P.E.I. as an organic province . . . , I wanted the overall emphasis of the film to be that when people walked away they would feel that they dug their hands in the soil, smelled the morning air, heard the birds and had some connection with that visceral image. That’s what I went for as far as filming. I wanted it to be intimate and for people to understand that connection to the land that so many of us don’t have anymore . . . .”
While the multigenerational farmers in the film have returned to their organic roots, it’s also noted that it’s with new knowledge that didn’t exist in their forefathers’ time.
“It’s not just going back, which is a point that Margie made in the film,” Clarkes says.
“There is so much new technology and scientific understanding about systems and pests, soil fertility and machinery, all kinds of things that you can use in organic farming now that just didn’t exist at all . . . .”
Through her documentary subjects, Clarkes hopes Island Green can foster the message that organic farming can translate into a viable livelihood.
“I wanted to show audiences that it’s not a movement, it’s not a radical tree-hugging thing. It can be very practical and it can be very conventional in a way. It doesn’t have to be this political thing . . . ,” she adds.
Island Green is a call to action in the sense of the hope for continued contemplation and discussion of the future of farming on P.E.I.
“It’s a conversation that’s already happening, it happened long before film was made,” Clarkes says. “Changes are already happening. The number of organic farmers on P.E.I. is growing every year, so those changes are naturally taking place. But I do hope that this film . . . inspires conversation and reinforces the morale of people who are already doing the good work — all the organic farmers and farmers of all kinds who are out there working, flogging away every day.”
With only 1,500 farmers and a small, encapsulated land base, the film highlights the fact that P.E.I. is perhaps the prime province in Canada to make the switch to an all-organic mindset.
“P.E.I. is small enough to make a change, but big enough to make a difference,” says Raymond Loo in the film.
AT A GLANCE
Island Green: a bi-coastal screening event is being presented by Open Cinema and the P.E.I. Certified Organic Producer’s Co-op at 7 p.m. at the Farm Centre, 420 University Ave., Charlottetown, on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
The 25-minute film will be screened during a multi-city hybrid cinema event that will take place simultaneously in Victoria, B.C., and Charlottetown.
The screening of the film will be followed by post-screening discussion in both location with the audience and journalist Ian Petrie, organic farmer Mark Bernard of Barnyard Organics and Margie Loo of Elderflower Organic Farm and Phil Ferraro, director of the Institute for Bioregional Studies Ltd., executive director P.E.I. ADAPT Council and general manager of the P.E.I. Farm Centre Association.
The two conversations will be connected via Livestream, Twitter and Facebook, providing a worldwide opportunity for online engagement
Snacks and hot beverages provided. Admission is free.
Donations will be accepted to support Springwillow Farms and the legacy of Raymond Loo.
Everyone is encouraged to join in the discussion before, during and after the screening via: Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/IslandGreen/ or Twitter: #opencinema.
For more information on the film go to http://www.onethousandflowers.tv/#!island-green/cwuq.
u For more information on Open Cinema go to http://www.opencinema.ca/IslandGreen/.
u Join the Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/412365908896627/.