It’s difficult, in theory, to screw up a documentary like Diego and Alvaro Sarmiento’s Sembradoras de Vida, or Mothers of the Land. The literal translation of the original Spanish title is Seeders of Life. And we can see that life in verdant color, the grass growing tall in Quechua lands as cows graze on it.
But this documentary is not about the cows, it’s about the titular mothers who farm the land and know these crops. They come from different generations. A younger women faces the camera and shows a plant that comes from the potato family that sustains her.
These mothers are also noticing that the crops are smaller. And that they have to work harder and go higher for good harvests, or that it doesn’t rain like it used to do. One of the mothers eventually talks about the emotional effects of these highly irregular weather patterns.
Climate change worries these mothers so much that they take some of their seeds to a seed bank in Svalbard. The movie has its share of bittersweet moments. It also reflects its ethos of how these women are preparing just in case the worst happens.
Mothers of the Land shows smart female farmers but some of the information doesn’t seem new despite its attempts to pass it off as so. I’m obviously not a farmer here. But I’ve seen enough movies about farming to have heard about planting a variety of crops to protect the land.
Another trend that this doc shows is Quechuan ambivalence to certain social patterns. Its youth, especially, face the divide between rural and urban life. It doesn’t paint urban encroachment and brain drain as evil or absolute. But outside of that I don’t see a refreshing take on the trends that this doc portrays.
For more information on Sembradoras de Vida go to https://www.imaginenative.org/sembradoras-de-vida.