Berlinale Bloggers 2020
Save the trees

Yile Yara Vianello in “Semina il vento“ (Sow the Wind), director Danilo Caputo
Yile Yara Vianello in “Semina il vento“ (Sow the Wind), director Danilo Caputo | Photo (detail): © JbaOkta

“Sow the Wind”, a film by Danilo Caputo set way down in southern Italy, portrays a young woman torn between family traditions and the exigencies of modern society.

There actually are young people who choose to go into farming. And not the old way, but with new ideas, new technologies and, above all, with love and respect for the environment. More and more Italians under 35 years of age – as many as 60,000 in 2018 – are taking up farming, and their numbers are growing by 6 per cent a year. No other European country has reported figures of this magnitude.

Nica, the protagonist of Sow the Wind (Semina il vento), could be one of them. She is just over 20 years old and studying agronomics far from home. But after a long absence, she decides to go home and move back in with her family. What awaits her there is both sad and alarming: the olive trees in the multi-acre grove that her family has owned and farmed for generations are infested with a parasite and haven’t borne fruit in at least two years. Her father wants to chop them down and collect the compensation offered by the authorities, but Nica is intent on finding a remedy instead. So she begins closely observing the parasites in the firm conviction that it isn’t yet time for these centuries-old trees to die. But nobody from her family or village gives her any support in her efforts to save the trees. Why not?

Back in the south

The story is set somewhere in the vicinity of Taranto, a provincial capital in Apulia, in the deep south of Italy. The city is never named, but in some scenes we can see the Ilva steel mill in the background, which has been a hotly disputed matter for years now, the question being: Should it be shut down to protect the environment and the health of locals, or kept running to save thousands of jobs? No other city, no other area in Italy, reflects as starkly the current conflict between economic and environmental priorities. The parasite in Sow the Wind serves as a kind of catalyst, forcing a decision. Giving in to the parasite would mean saying goodbye to places and traditions that have ensured a civilization’s survival through thick and thin for thousands of years. Fighting it, on the other hand, would involve other heavy sacrifices.

Director Danilo Caputo and co-writer Milena Magnani have settled on a soulful ending that leaves every possibility open. If it's true that we usually watch movies for their entertainment value, then Sow the Wind counters with a question which – at least from a distance – is hard to answer honestly: What would we do if this story were about us?