New eco-documentary gives an artistic look at how we can all live a wild and organic life.


Floral guerrillas and slow ecosystems

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We are all on a journey to death. Everything irrevocably ends once in a while. In a hundred years everything is forgotten. This linear look at – and the fear of – death and the end of it all, is challenged in the art documentary Wild Plants by Swiss Nicolas Humbert.

Through slow portraits of people going the other way, Humbert makes a slow-moving social diagnosis. By looking at those who choose other lives, he forces us to look at our own lives again. He turns his eyes on those who choose to be outside, live life more slowly, and through the cultivation of leeks, marigold and eggplant, a kind of rebellion against social development, consumer society, time squeeze and human relations to life itself. Humbert visits cooperatives in France, one «geriljagartner »in Zurich, a native of Wounded Knee, a lumberjack and urban farmer in Detroit.

Cyclic worldview. The dominant notion in a classic, "modern" world of imagination is that the years, life, and world are heading somewhere, toward a goal – in a linear direction from beginning to end. In contrast, the circular worldview stands where the days, the weeks and the year
goes in cycles, and where everything returns. Sioux medic Hehák'a Sápa (Black Moose) (1863–1950) put it this way: “Birds make their nests in circles, because they have the same religion as us. The sun rises and sets again in a circle.

wild plantsThe moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a big circle in its changing nature – always returning to what it once was. ”

For the Detroit artist and urban artist Kinga Osz-Kemp in Wild Plants the encounter with the soil, the compost and the plants was an awakening. She lost her mother at a young age, and had an unresolved relationship with death. "The heart of everything we do is compost," says Osz-Kemp in the film. That something dies, and then again to create life, is essential. "I'm not so worried about what will happen to me after I die anymore. It no longer feels like such a horrible end. "

Through her work with compost and cultivation, she has thus understood that the end can also be the beginning. "Compost is just a stop in the cycle. I came from the idea that everything has a beginning and an end. The idea of ​​the cyclical worldview immediately became very visible and obvious only by seeing how compost again created life, "says Osz-Kemp.

Guerrilla leader with seeds. On a farm in Nova, Ohio, grows the last known apple tree planted by missionary gardener Johnny Appleseed (1774–1845). Appleseed decided early on to dedicate his life to seed planting. He walked barefoot through the United States and planted apple trees, fenced them in for protection against grazing animals, and gave the locals the responsibility of looking after the trees. His goal was for the settlers to have access to apples, which in turn could be used in cider production.

Appleseed is considered a pioneer in nature conservation and apple growing in the United States. He is also a role model for what we today call "guerrilla cultivation". This is a phenomenon that has probably existed since the maturity of the times, but which since the 1970s has spread from the United States to everywhere in the world. Guerrilla cultivation is the cultivation of plants – everything from food to flowers – on properties they do not own. Typical of guerrilla farming is to use urban areas, small and large, which are not used for anything.

Liz Christy Garden in New York is considered a forerunner. Liz Christy started "Green Guerrillas" in 1973, where they armed with seed bombs put fertilizer and flower seeds in balloons that were thrown behind the fence on an abandoned property. The garden still exists, and is looked after by volunteers, with the protection of the park service.

The pact with the plants. Of the wild plants of some people we meet in the Swiss eco-documentary, Maurice Maggi is the most mysterious. With sixpence and horn-rimmed glasses, he wanders the streets of Zurich with neatly selected seeds that he himself has collected in white bags. For Maggi will make Zurich flourish. For him, center discounts, traffic jams and niches in the roadway are the perfect place for a flower meadow.

Maggi has a kind of pact with the plants, the seeds and the seasons: “I take them somewhere, and in the autumn they give me seed capsules. It is completely self-sufficient; what I harvest from a capsule gives me hundreds or thousands of new plants. There is playful interaction with the seasons. It is an endless process, "says Maggi.

For him, the big dream is for someone else to harvest from the plants he himself has planted, and thus bring life to the seeds. Or that a family should find the giant squash he has planted, and take care of it through the summer and eat it until the autumn.

The escape to reality. The people we meet in the film are all opportunists – like Maggi's flowers. Whether it is the unemployed French who get a job at the farm cooperative Réseau Cocagne, guerrilla gardeners, other urban gardeners or lumberjacks, everyone finds meaning in the close contact between body, food, soil and the changing seasons. They challenge society through the way they live, the way they eat, the way they cultivate and how they relate to ownership.

The film does not ask whether this is the solution to society's crises. It is rather a completely laid-back portrait that at the same time goes close, and a completely open consideration of how people with different ecological ambitions live their lives. But the film is also a celebration of the same life choices.

One summer night along a country road, I hiked several years ago with an expatriate city dweller, who in protest against the pace and pursuit of achievement in the city had chosen a different life. I asked him if he had escaped from reality. The answer came in cash: "I have not run away reality, I have escapedt to reality. " The lives of the people in Wild Plants can probably also be easily dismissed as an escape from reality – but what they have actually done is the exact opposite.

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