Cyrus Sutton Kickstarts a Beautiful, Provocative Film on Agribusiness and the Future of Hawaii
by Chris Dixon
Images from Cyrus Sutton’s film Island Earth.
Today we learned that wandering filmmaker and Korduroy.tv founder Cyrus Sutton is working on what might be the most important film he’s ever produced. He’s calling the film Island Earth. It looks to be an in-depth, nuanced look at the effect that corporate agribusiness is having on the culture, ecology and future of Hawaii – particularly Kauai.
In the late 1990’s, recognizing cheap, fertile land, and Hawaii’s nearly yearlong growing season, big chemical and agricultural companies like DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta and Dow began buying or leasing farmland that had lain fallow since the demise of Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple plantations. In the place of its former plantation crops, Kauai now supports one of the world’s largest seed operations for “Roundup Ready” corn that’s been engineered to withstand Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer. These farms have also put Hawaiians in the wind paths of dusty blowups of soil laden with pesticides, some of which are banned in the U.S. for residential use, and are banned outright in Europe. Speculation is high that a pesticide induced “cancer cluster” may even exist in the Kauai farming community of Waimea.
Yet these big companies provide jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars into Hawaii’s economy. Money that trickles down to local farm workers, families and business owners. And that’s where things get tricky. In the last few years, these issues have boiled over in the form of voter initiatives, corporate lawsuits, personal feuds and even the candidacy of pro surfer and mixed martial arts fighter Justin Barca, for mayor of Kauai.
Wading into this morass, camera in hand, is Sutton. From the looks of the below trailer, the Ventura, California filmmaker has already shot gigabytes of incredibly compelling, and in some cases heart-wrenching material. For the story he’s already in the middle of telling, this looks like a film worth funding. — CD
View the Trailer Below: