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15 February 1952 (Australia)  »

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1.37 : 1
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Edited from Harvests for Tomorrow (1941) See more »

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Excess and starvation in a post-war world
1 September 2007 | by (England) – See all my reviews

I wondered at the start of the film why it should need to display an Adult rating certificate; but in dealing with famine and starvation it pulls no punches and delivers some fairly distressing images. The documentation of post-war devastation in Europe and simultaneous climate disruption in the East is still powerful, and a real eye-opener to those of us brought up with stories of victory and happy-ever-after. The condemnation of excess and black-market luxuries is evangelical in its scorn.

As with most of Rotha's work that I've seen, there is a strong didactic message attached, and it is this polemical edge that I tend to find wears less well. In the case of this film, the argument being made is for the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, intended to promote what would later be dubbed "the green revolution" -- an era of industrialised farming across the world to provide food for all. The irony is that, as we know, it didn't succeed in eliminating man-made famine, and produced unintended side-effects: the modern-day FAO advocates 'simple, sustainable tools and techniques' instead of mass irrigation and mechanization, and it's sometimes hard to watch this hopeful propaganda from a more optimistic age.

Watching films like this, however, reminds us just *why* such an emphasis was placed on increasing production at any cost, and the message still holds true today: shortage and starvation brings conflict, unrest, and ultimately renewed war. In 1947, the aim above all was to avoid the mistakes that had brought another world conflict within a generation of the first one.


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