NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on October 3, 2021
You Think That the Earth Is A Dead Thing takes place in the farmlands of the island of Martinique. For several decades, a carcinogenic insecticide known as chlordecone has been used on the crops of Martinique and has caused so much pollution and ecological damage that it is causing serious risk to the island’s population.
As You Think The Earth Is A Dead Thing progresses, we follow various people who work on the farms, such as banana farmers, an ethnopharmacologist and a local medical herbalist foraging for assorted plants to use as alternatives for medicine as they try to not only find ways to continue their work but get involved in a serious political struggle around the use of the carcinogenic insecticide that has created havoc on the island.
For its short runtime, You Think The Earth Is A Dead Thing places the audience among the various groups that were mentioned earlier and just watches them as they get along with their work. It’s almost like the audience is invited to be a part of this community to see what it’s like to have to not only work in the banana plantation (where it feels like most of the documentary takes place) but to learn the history of colonialism in the region, how the plants were used throughout history as medicine and just a ton of other fascinating information.
You Think The Earth Is A Dead Thing also takes the time to really let us get to know this community and the people in it, choosing not to bother with talking-head interviews or narrators but instead just watching as events unfurl, going between work, planning and protest and letting the audience follow along with what’s happening. For the most part that’s very doable, it’s only an hour and ten-minute long film so that shouldn’t be too hard to keep up with, right?
See, the problem that You Think The Earth Is A Dead Thing keeps running headfirst into is that it is paced so poorly that it’s obscenely easy to just lose interest and drift off. It somehow feels long despite barely going for the full length of your average streaming TV episode. It asks a lot of the audience, demanding they maintain utter focus but it never makes it easy. It just never quite got as engaging as it probably should be, which is kind of stunning considering this is about how a known carcinogen went and put an entire island through hell.
Possibly the most powerful moment of You Think The Earth Is A Dead Thing is when we actually see the protest, indeed the camera is inside the marching crowd and following them along the streets as the people demand attention for their cause… but that’s all we really do, we see it happening but it feels passive. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re watching as events unfurl and while that leads to a more natural feeling film, it also means that when we need someone to explain something the most there’s no one there to give us the info or really connect with.
You Think The Earth Is A Dead Thing has got one hell of an important message, indeed possibly one of the most important messages that you will find in any film that’s a part of the FoodxFilm Festival since it revolves around a cancer-causing chemical… but it is so hard to get properly engaged with. It demands so much of the audience and gives them no real leeway to work with. Maybe if you’re fully caffeinated and able to just stare and focus without any interruptions then you might get more out of it, it is an absolutely important story that’s worth telling… it’d just be nice if it was told a little better, even if that meant making it longer.
Viewed as part of the FoodxFilm Festival which goes from September 26th until October 3rd