This is a story about negotiating the terms of sustainable living.
Inspired by the effects of the recent recession, the roots of Biophilia can be traced to the months following the crash when I feverishly fought for space to grow vegetables on my fire escape in Brooklyn. I was eager to nurture something tangible while success in the city proved increasingly elusive. I watched as my peers did the same, leaving jobs to start food trucks or pickling companies, rooftop gardens and butcher shops. Our generation was reeling from the frauds of Wall Street and we were intent on finding value beyond the dollar in our lives.
The seeds of this renewed curiosity in wilderness living grew into today’s thriving food-awareness movement and the so-called “farm-to-table” scene. We see the resurgence of this interest on television, where survivalism programming reigns and homesteading shows like Alaska: The Last Frontier hold captive audiences season after season. But this interest in returning to the wilderness from civilization is not new.
Self-reliance has long been an American ideal. We go into the wild in search for ourselves. In the film, our protagonist is desperate to escape the voices constantly critiquing her choices, so she moves to an abandoned ranch to assert her independence. The work of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau captured my imagination many moons ago and left me lingering over what it means to be self-sufficient. In recent years, this question haunted me at dinner parties where I would veer into uncomfortable territory by asking the guests between sips of wine if they would kill the animal we’d be eating later if they had to. Nature provides tests of character unknown in civil society. Biophilia pits this lust for the land against the actuality of living close to nature.
Despite a handful of exceptions, the mythic rugged individualist is predominantly characterized in media as a masculine experience. Women have an intimate, adventurous relationship with the wild and I want to see more of those stories celebrated on screen. With Biophilia, I was determined to depict a woman coming into her own power. As a female filmmaker, my aim is to empower women through representative storytelling and break the gender barriers that women face daily in all fields, from film to farming.
The film’s title was introduced to me by prominent food thinker Michael Pollan, by way of the biologist and conservationist E.O. Wilson, who defined biophilia as the innate, inherited love we humans have for the natural world with which we co-evolved. As we catapult into the 21st century and strive towards a better future, we are faced with pressing questions about the natural world. How do we reassess our values and work towards new models of sustainable living? My hope is to create a cinematic experience that stokes our enchantment with Mother Nature and provokes us to protect her, so that as Michael Pollan put it beautifully, we “look around and see that the plants and the trees of knowledge grow in the garden still.”
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