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September Wheat

1980 | 96 min | Recommended min. age: 16 y

“September Wheat” is a myth busting film about wheat, famine and the tendrils that accompany it.

Joseph of Egypt is the first of such mythical figures concerning wheat. He owes his reputation as a breadwinner to the well-organized speculation of gigantic proportions. In the bible story it is clear that Joseph himself caused the famine to which he owes his reputation. Joseph the Breadwinner is the only continuous figure in “September Wheat” and his legend, placed in a modern context, provides a model for many contemporary Josephs – wheat traders, speculators, politicians etc.

“September Wheat” is a film about the American wheat that dominates the world market. “September wheat” is a film about hunger – in the rich countries of the first world as well as in the poor third world countries. Using food as an example, the causes of hunger in a time of abundance are explored, the motives are discovered that turned wheat into a commodity and a weapon, humanity as victims of prosperity and how nature became the enemy is uncovered.

The film is subdivided into seven separate chapters, each asks a question and prove contradictions.

1. Winter Wheat
The farmers in Kansas fight for their existance. The more wheat they produce, the lower the price for sale drops. Trapped, they seek the way out through even larger machines, more artificial fertilizers and more pesticides. The larger the farm, the more agriculture become the business, wheat is the commodity and nature is the stagnant inventory. Some however, begin to reflect and defend themselves…

2. Hybrid Wheat
Science has turned on wheat with an immense force. LANDSAT’s satellites scour the harvests in the USA and its most important competitors. A database of the world’s agribusiness is established.
Researchers from private seed companies are furiously working on the creation of a whole new wheat plant – Hybrid Wheat. It promises higher yields, coupled with a complete dependence on the seed companies and producers of fertilizer. In fact, the chemical and oil companies also buy up the seed companies and patent the new species. The consequences of genetic uniformity could be catastrophic for humanity.

3. Common Wheat
Cargill is the largest grain trading company in the world. Their silos could contain four years of the entire Egyptian harvest. Cargill, and a few other companies control the distribution of wheat on the world market. Their business methods look just like a page out of Joseph’s book. To rid itself of wheat surplus in the 1950’s, the USA decided to finance a huge dumping program -„Food for Peace“ – and food aid begins to flow into the third world.

4. Paper Wheat
The wheat market in Chicago has been the centre of world wheat trading since 1948. Here the prices are set. In minutes, assets are won and lost. But the speculators are not players, they are economic functionaries that carry the risk of weather, disaster, war…

5. Bread Wheat
„Wonder bread“ is one of the many products of the conglomerate ITT and its subsidiary Continental Bakeries, the largest bakery group in the USA. Wonder bread is produced around the clock with the help of labour-saving technologies. The supermarkets are inundated with such „wonders“ But despite a vast supply of food, health and nutrition is in decline. Is wonder bread founded on the creation of a new kind of hunger?

6. Blood Wheat
Weaponizing wheat is hardly an American invention, but Washington’s politicians have perfected the art. Earl Butz, agriculture minister under President Nixon, speaks of the „positive sides of foreign policy“. The examples from Africa, Latin America, Vietnam, Italy and Egypt illustrate the different applications for weaponized wheat. Depending on whether a regime is to be praised or punished, supported or overthrown, wheat is either given or withheld. Although useless against strong wheat powers such as the Soviet Union, this type of politics can be catastrophic for a developing nation.

7. Hunger Wheat
Charlie Zahr is retired and lives in Chicago. He is one of the 40 million people who live in the richest country in the world under the basic subsistence level. Although Zahr was once a well standing, respected citizen, today he is a charity case. Nowhere is it more obvious than America, where hunger clashes with abundance in the crassest of manners.

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