Land Grabbing, that is grabbing other people’s land. That’s the name of a documentary film by Kurt Langbein (Austria, 2015, 95′), which was screened last June 2nd, 2016 in the International Documentary Competition of CinemAmbiente Environmental Film Festival, and that’s a concept of the same name which needs some introduction in order to be known by most people.
Lang grabbing is a practice consisting on expropriating and selling large sections of land to private people, companies or foreign governments without the consensus of communities who have been living there for generations. Long story short: from one side there are wealthy investors trying to take the biggest profit in this lucrative market by grabbing the best pots of land in order to grow food for exportation or raw material for biofuel. On the other side, entire families are forced to abandon their lands, with no compensation nor reimbursement.
At the base of this, we are facing the progressive disappearing of fertile soil and natural resources, and after the financial meltdown in 2008 the global financial capital discovered the business segment of global farmland.
Land Grabbing was awarded with a Special Mention during the Mexican festival Cinema Planeta 2016, member Green Film Network. Through detailed examples and different perspectives, the movie guides us into the world of investors in the international agro-business and shows the consequences that an irresponsible- often unaware- consumerism has on families kicked off their land. From Cambodia to Ethiopia, from Kenya to Eastern Europe, as a matter of facts the documentary film aims to portray the motivations of both investors and their victims.
“Land Grabbing aims to raise concerns. It is the conditions originating from our countries which lure the big money into the fields, and we can shape these conditions” the director says, by reminding us our responsibilities. Moreover, during a dialogue with the audience following the screening of the documentary at CinemAmbiente Film Festival, he stated: “It took a lot of effort to make it possible to show the inside look of what the investors are thinking about what they are doing. We did it by approaching them in their own speech how these companies present their social responsibility. Our goal was to approach them by showing how sustainability really works and how social responsibility is really taken, and that is the truth but they misunderstood it a little bit”.
Although the concept of sustainability is often distorted, it is endorsed by international authorities, such as the European Commission: “Honestly speaking, before starting the investigation I didn’t really know how big the involvement of Europe is. We Europeans are the major land grabbers because 44% of all the money put into this agriculture and industry leading to land grabbing comes from European financial institutions. We Europeans make the most use out of the land grabbing because 60% of what we buy in the supermarkets as food for us is not grown in Europe any longer but it’s grown in those countries where the people don’t have enough to live on their own”.
Last November the documentary was screened at the European Parliament, in order to take the issue of land grabbing- which has been underrated so far- in the spotlight. Nevertheless, in addition to institutions, also consumers play a fundamental role. “Both ways are necessary. We are citizens of Europe and we can influence the politics on one hand; we are consumers and can influence the demand on the other hand. The big demand for convenience food, industrialized food make it possible that food industry gets so strong and the production of these products are such at a high level. So the opposite: to eat regional and fresh food cooked by ourselves is really a political statement”. A chance to reaffirm the right we have of choosing our food, while giving back their rights to people who don’t seem to have a voice anymore.