You know you’re in trouble when Neil Young writes an album about you.
From award-winning director Jennifer Baichwal (Watermark, Manufactured Landscapes), Into the Weeds follows Bay Area groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson. Tasked with using herbicide to kill the area’s weeds, Johnson began to suffer rashes in 2014 that caused serious concern. As the condition continued to worsen, Johnson decided to take legal action against Monsanto, a multi-national agrochemical corporation who claimed that the chemicals he was using were safe, even though his experience proved otherwise.
From award-winning director Jennifer Baichwal, Into the Weeds is a powerful and terrifying examination of corporate irresponsibility and their willingness to cut corners for the sake of profit. Following one man’s battle against the muscle of multi-national corporation Monsanto, Baichwal keeps an unflinching eye on the facts of the trial. Whereas her filmmaking has made use of many styles over the years, Baichwal takes the opportunity with this film to follow the trial with relentless veracity. By focusing on the events of the trial Baichwal allows the viewer to feel as though they are a part of the trial itself. For example, as the viewer listens to the endless stream of testimonies from scientists and doctors that highlight Monsanto’s misconduct, the viewer feels as though they are on the jury. Given the facts and evidence, they are left to decide for themselves whether or not the corporate monster is guilty of misdeeds.
As the facts continue to mount, Weeds becomes a cry for justice, not only for Johnson but for the countless others who have been victimized by the corporate beast. As Johnson mentions more than once, this battle is not about the money. Instead, like many others, his greatest desire is for others to know the truth. This is about justice being served and the truth coming forward.
And, of course, Johnson is not alone.
By hearing the stories of others affected by corporate corruption, Weeds emphasizes the wide spread effects of their actions. With one testimony after another, the film gives voice to victims of Monsanto who are unable to speak up for themselves. (In fact, this also inspired Young to create his scathing album, The Monsanto Years.)
However, in addition to these personal stories, Baichwal also recognizes the conversation taking place amongst indigenous peoples that highlights the interconnectedness of our world. As Monsanto strips forests for the sake of their profit, so too do they create devastation amongst the natural landscapes. From the destruction of wildlife to the elimination of oxygen-producing trees, the effects the wide-reaching effects of this travesty are shown in almost spiritual level. As the indigenous populations take notice and decry corporate action, Weeds recognizes that the destruction caused by Monsanto is far greater than the health issues of one particular person.
As a result of their recklessness, we are all put at risk as well.
As Baichwal steps back and allows the trial to reveal the truth so too does she demand accountability for corporations such as Monsanto who emphasize profit over human life. However, although Into the Weedsemphasizes the uphill battle of one small man against the corporate Goliath but it also extends far beyond the courtroom. As Monsanto’s actions impact the natural world, so too does their carelessness affect the global community as well. In this way, Baichwal understands that, while Johnson’s fight is important, the impact of its results reaches us all.
Into the Weeds is available in theatres on Friday, May 20th, 2022.