Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage for the 14th Annual Planet in Focus Film Festival which runs from November 21st to 24th in Toronto. For more information on the festival visit planetinfocus.org and follow Planet in Focus on Twitter at @PlanetinFocus.
Modern farming techniques with its production maximizing chemical weaponry and a new flourishing tourism industry that draws well-meaning seekers of mystical awakening to the land’s vibrant colors and textures have changed the lives of traditional farmers in southern India and made it nearly impossible to carry on their lives using the traditional techniques of sustenance based farming that have bountifully provided for their well-being for generations. Life providing streams of water now carry unwanted passengers of chemical pesticides and the compulsory garbage of a flourishing tourism industry, tainting the ancestral “sweet waters” that have been winding through these rural areas since they were named by the ancestors of the farmers that still try to flourish under newly imposed impossible circumstances. Farmers seek temporary refuge in plastic jugs of homemade alcohol while others give into the hopelessness of the situation and commit suicide, seeing no conceivable alternatives and unwilling to change their way of life that had been passed down through countless generations. They speak of their tragic circumstances with laughter that betrays the sadness behind their eyes. These are the world’s second class citizens, inhabitants of the “third-world” who are condescended to for their outmoded techniques, having the audacity to grow food for the purposes of consumption rather than profiteering and exploiting the land for cheap, temporary sources of fuel. Have you Seen the Arana? shows us the diverse lives of these sustenance farmers, adherents to ancient methods that live their lives with purpose and happiness despite being fully aware of the impending extinction of their way of life.
People that live in harmony with these sights and sounds have an innate understanding of the interconnectivity of all things, leaving rare breeds of termites to carry on undisturbed as they provide the right circumstances for a rare annual gift of mushrooms, small gifts appreciated by those who depend on nature’s complex philanthropy to provide for their essential needs.
A chorus of insects and birds creates the soundtrack for the third-world and innumerable shades of green create the visual backdrop while hard-working people toil away at making the land work for them, understanding that delicate balance is the only way to maintain a permanent relationship with the land. The droning soundtrack of the third-word takes on mystical properties as the unrestrained sounds of nature have been a dwindling resource as the biodiversity of the world is being traded in for temporary gains in crop production. People that live in harmony with these sights and sounds have an innate understanding of the interconnectivity of all things, leaving rare breeds of termites to carry on undisturbed as they provide the right circumstances for a rare annual gift of mushrooms, small gifts appreciated by those who depend on nature’s complex philanthropy to provide for their essential needs. The modern world has little patience for the uncertainty and low production of such delicate symbiotic relationships and would instead raze the land to use it for more reliable and profitable crops with no regard for the complex interconnectivity of the natural world, violently tipping the scales in any profitable direction with no way of understanding the potential for devastation that such interference could yield as our ability to destroy has drastically outpaced our ability to understand the implications of such destruction.
When looking into their careworn faces in a film like Have you Seen the Arana? we can see that they are genuinely happy with their lives despite the immense challenges brought upon by modernization and the destruction of their way of life with near-universal indifference.
The popular misconception that we have been fed about inhabitants of “third-world” areas is that these are ignorant people living in abject poverty, maintaining ancient hangups that keep them developmentally stunted as the rest of the world moves around them and eventually forces them to adapt or disappear. We assume they live by strange agrarian customs and are ignorant of the complex inner-workings of the world. We assume that they constitute one featureless mass without individual wants and needs, familial concerns, or an essential understanding of the injustices being forced upon them as they are stubborn and unbending in the face of industrialization. When looking into their careworn faces in a film like Have you Seen the Arana? we can see that they are genuinely happy with their lives despite the immense challenges brought upon by modernization and the destruction of their way of life with near-universal indifference. Some speak of the values of natural medicines found within walking distance of their modest homes while understanding the occasional need for western medicine, that marvelous industry that sells us potentially dangerous man-made potions on the merits of their incidental side-effects that have proven accidentally useful.
Have you Seen the Arana? offers rare glimpses of diverse families possessing differing beliefs and the same essential concerns and needs as inhabitants of the developed world. Once prosperous Catholic ginger cultivators live only a few dirt-paved miles away from a family of rice farmers that treat their crop as a deity, a logical adulation brought on by the supreme importance of the crop in their micro-society’s survival. Some weep for the loss of children who have been enticed by the empty promises of the modernized world while others lament the devaluation of their crop on the open market as they try desperately to surviving by keeping one foot planted in each world. Some have reluctantly adopted the use of chemical pesticides in the desperate hope of competing in a global economy that continues to invade every pocket of the developed and underdeveloped world with cold unstoppable precision. Some have lived under slavery, witnessed the destruction of the land by short-sited developers, and have a more complete understanding of the rippling impact that the modern world imposes than most that inhabit it. We have been brought to believe that these people are simply in the way of progress and are too stubborn or unintelligent to understand the complex needs of the rest of the world, but such are the dehumanizing lies perpetuated to marginalize and remove the essential rights of anyone in the way of industrial progress.
[notification type=”star”]87/100 ~ GREAT. Have you Seen the Arana? offers rare glimpses of diverse families possessing differing beliefs and the same essential concerns and needs as inhabitants of the developed world.[/notification]