Empowering Seeds: The Vandana Shiva Story

The Seeds of Vandana Shiva
Review by: Alonso Duralde

Unveiling the Eco-Warrior: The Seeds of Vandana Shiva’s Inspiring Journey

A thorough if somewhat pedestrian portrait of one of the world’s leading eco-activists, The
Seeds of Vandana Shiva explores a fascinating life story and the pressing global causes that
inspire its subject to action. Directors James Becket and Camilla Becket never stray too far
aesthetically from a journalistic style; the film often resembles a feature-length 60 Minutes

Nonetheless, Shiva’s story is so compelling — and Shiva herself is such a commanding yet warm
figure on camera — that the documentary’s straightforwardness doesn’t hinder a narrative that
could serve as inspiration for environmentalists, feminists, and anti-corporate activists.

From Himalayan Forests to Global Causes: Shiva’s Motivation Unveiled

Born in the Himalayas, Shiva grew up near a lush and complex forest which was torn down by
loggers when she became an adult. This destruction of her childhood ecosystem was but one of
several factors that played into her pursuit of environmental activism. She also recounts going
into nuclear physics after earning a degree, only to realize that everything she had been taught
was about the extraction of power and not about the damage on people and the land by

Key Environmental Causes: Shiva’s Involvement in the Chipko Movement and Beyond

Over the course of several decades, we see Shiva becoming involved in many key
environmental causes, from the Chipko Movement (which put the phrase “tree-huggers” into
the vernacular) to fights over water rights to her involvement in the legendary “Battle of
Seattle” against the World Trade Organization. Her current crusade puts her up against
Monsanto and other multi-national corporations that seek to trademark seeds and other
agricultural biotechnology.

Dismantling the “Green Revolution”: Shiva’s Mission for Organic Agriculture in India

Shiva systematically chips away at the so-called “green revolution,” which brought chemical
farming to India. Acclaimed in its day – the man behind it was honored with the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1970 – this so-called innovation has, according to Shiva, caused environmental
devastation, strengthening her resolution to convince Indian farmers to advance modern
techniques and embrace organic agriculture.

As Gandhi used the spinning wheel as a way to encourage Indians to make their own textiles
rather than buy them from their British colonizers, Shiva collects and distributes seeds so that
Indian farmers can grow crops independently of GMOs. (She’s the real-life equivalent of Mad
Max: Fury Road‘s “Keeper of the Seeds.”)

Skillful Filmmaking: The Beckets’ Journey through Shiva’s Eco-History.

The Beckets, along with editor Anthony Ellison and his team, skillfully cover a great deal of
terrain; by the end of The Seeds of Vandana Shiva, viewers will have taken in a semester’s
worth of basic science, eco-history, and even Indian family law. (When Shiva divorced he
husband in the 1980s, she challenged and ultimately helped to overturn the patriarchal law that automatically gave custody of children to the father.) But apart from anecdotes about her hero-
worship of Einstein or the story behind the prominent bindi Shiva wears, the film seems far less
interested in her as a human being than as a global activist.

Still, for viewers interested in looking for inspiration to fight their own good fights, they’ll find
plenty of that here.

Read more reviews at Action Reloaded


  • Alonso Duralde

    Duralde is the Chief US Film Critic for The Film Verdict and co-host of several podcasts, including "Linoleum Knife," "Maximum Film!," "Breakfast All Day" and "Deck the Hallmark." He has appeared on TCM and was a regular contributor to FilmStruck. He is the author of two books, Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas (Limelight Editions) and 101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men (Advocate Books), and the co-author of I'll Be Home for Christmas Movies (Running Press). His book on the history of LGBTQ+ Hollywood will be published by TCM/Running Press in 2024.