Documentary review: ‘A Symphony of the Soil’ digs for change

November 15, 2013

symphony_of_the_soil_xlgLife emanates from the smallest component. This is the premise of the new documentary Symphony of Soil, where even the most minuscule organisms are shown to have a big impact on our health, environment and the planet. The documentary is a well-researched thoughtful piece directed by Deborah Koons Garcia that presents a slew of passionate scientists unraveling the complex processes that make planet earth thrive. The focus is on soil and how this seemingly small and overlooked component is the basis for environmental success.

The documentary is a master class in the science and practice of sustainable farming. While we learn a lot, the information is not presented in a preachy, you-should-feel-guilty-for-how-you-are-currently-living kind of way. Indeed, unlike many of the environmentally aware/advocacy documentaries, A Symphony of Soil is informative without being heavy-handed. It is a well-organized piece that will also be quite enjoyable for those with a curious mind.

Cast as the protagonist, soil appears as something more than just dirt. Soil is the foundation from which life emanates. When one scientist takes an auger to one lush piece of ground it almost feels as though he is cutting into the fleshy skin of a giant animal. Koons Garcia’s accomplishment stems from the fact that she can create such a bond with an inanimate organism. The slew of experts and practitioners also are cast in the same passionate light about soil. Though the subject could easily induce boredom in some viewers, Koons Garcia’s treatment is uplifting and inspiring.

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Through this documentary, Koons Garcia makes a point to show that the future is wide open; we can either continue to squander resources or try the various alternatives presented in the film. As it turns out, Koons Garcia does not tell us what to do but shows us what others are accomplishing. The alternatives are exciting, from a farmer in North Dakota who grew up in a farm and realized what traditional farming does to the earth, to an Indian farmer (Jaspal Singh Chattha) who waxes eloquent about the need for natural, sustainable compost and rails against the Green Revolution.

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This is Koons Garcia’s second piece on the importance of environmental conservation. Her previous work The Future of Food was released in 2004, where she depicted the move towards genetically modified foods by agribusiness and the resistance from organic farmers.

 —Ana Morgenstern

Symphony of Soil runs 104 mins. Shotwell Media provided a DVD screener for the purposes of this review. You can catch it on DVD or catch one of the special screenings available near you. It is set to screen in Palm Beach, on Sunday, Nov. 17, at 3 p.m. at ArtsMuvico Parisian 20 & IMAX. Tickets can be purchased here. For a complete calendar of screenings around the country go here.

(Copyright 2013 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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