What is the goal of a cherry tree? Is it to make the best cherries? Not really, the cherries are only to attract birds (and the occasional human) that take the seeds away from the parent tree so they can grow. The seeds of the tree are its children. Every plant, tree, vegetable and flower evolves to ensure its’ seeds carry on. We can relate to plants in this way – don’t most parents want better for their children?
Patrice Fortier, the eponymous Sower (Le Semeur), has made it his life’s work to help seeds survive in the St. Lawrence Valley of Quebec. Julie Perron’s documentary The Sower shows this quirky, charismatic, hard-working man trying to connect to the best sources of food in the best way he knows how. He grows seeds.
To harvest seeds from a rare Polish rutabaga, so he can then sell it in the market, it takes 4 years and requires a lot of patience to extract that kind of beauty. From the image of Fortier wearing a hat made of Angelica plants (which will be used to spread their seeds), you can see he’s an artist at heart. He explains that all farmers must be artists – they have to see the beauty in nature, even in a carrot, in order to choose the best to continue to grow. Fortier became interested in seeds because he wanted to combine art and agriculture, but quickly learned that to produce anything would require all of his time and effort. Fortunately, Perron provides a glimpse into some of Fortier’s side projects throughout the film.
Patrice Fortier convinces us that seeds and plants are worth caring about. We should know and care that eggplants won’t grow in the St. Lawrence valley (they like heat). We should understand that if a species won’t grow, it probably doesn’t belong there in the first place. We should care that we can grow 280 Polish rutabagas for $3.50 in seeds and a little work in the dirt.
Many documentaries on food often focus on topics such as the horrible ways our food system works, our ever growing waistlines, or what the world needs to change. Instead, The Sower focuses on the process. There are pieces of information interwoven about the rare heirloom species that Fortier produces, a bit on what the food would taste like, and a little of Fortier’s antics. Mostly though, this is a quiet, steady, and heartwarming film about why we should just care more about our food.
Tuesday, April 29, 6:00 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thursday, May 1, 2:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Sunday, May 4, 1:30 PM, Scotiabank Theatre