In order to “protect” and replicate the seeds from war-battered crops of the Syrian Aleppo, the scientists from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) start a gene bank. The seeds are transported through Beirut to Norwegian Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The vault becomes their Noah’s ark, while the seeds become symbolical “refugees”. For real Syrian refugees, there is painstaking work in the fields of the Lebanon valley Bequaa. Playing on geographical and cultural collision between war-battered Aleppo and idyllic Svalbard, the author calmly operates with motives of biodiversity, climate change, corporate politics and power of resistance. “Earthworms are happy when earth is healthy”, says one of the author’s interlocutors, involved with organic farming. While in the Levant the seeds are facing draught and global agricultural corporations, on the far Norwegian north, its threats are global warming and melting glaciers. The attempts to overcome those catastrophes are utterly ambivalent. This is why Manna sees the Anthropocene as a bizarre mix of beauty and horror.
Jumana Manna was born in New Jersey, in 1987. She studied at the California Institute of the Arts and Oslo National Academy of the Arts. Her previous documentary debut, A Magical Substance Flows Into Me (2016), dealt with the heritage of the German-Jewish ethnomusicologist Robert Lachmann, who in the thirties researched Palestinian musical traditions and was the producer of the radio show Oriental Music.