Documentary Maker Amy Miller Brings Light to Social Issues From Behind the Lens
Amy Miller, BAHons/02, is set to release her third feature documentary, No Land, No Food, No Life, later this year. The film looks at the acquisition of agricultural land in the developing world—particularly in Africa, where the 32-year-old Miller says more than three-quarters of all such land grabs take place. And it follows earlier documentaries: one on the carbon market (The Carbon Rush in 2012) and the perception of Canada as a global peacemaker (Myths for Profit in 2009).
We caught up with Miller in Montreal just before she hit the documentary circuit in Europe. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What is No Land, No Food, No Life about?
It’s about agricultural land grabs and the transformation of the peasantry into exploited workers. Essentially, it’s looking at the dispossession of people around the world from their land. One of the hottest resources out there right now is actual agricultural farmland. So the idea of the film is to show how farmers around the world—in Cambodia, Uganda and Mali—are coping and what the reality is on the ground.
What inspired you to choose this topic?
Well, you know, I think all of my films are in a similar thread—just looking at capitalism and how it’s destroying the planet and everyone on it. And for me, it’s really important to give voice to people on the ground. With my last film, The Carbon Rush, we were looking at the carbon market and its impacts. Agricultural land grabs are a similar phenomenon.
What was it like filming in Mali during the recent conflict?
I was filming in August [of 2012], and the coup d’état had happened months before that. Mali’s not an easy country by any stretch to begin with. But with what’s been happening in the past year, it makes it even more difficult to do anything in Mali. The entire infrastructure has been destroyed. So, yeah, filming in Mali was difficult. It’s important to show the fact that land grabs happening in a country with extreme political instability isn’t an anomaly. These types of massive transfers of resources and wealth from the poor to the rich can be enabled specifically when there’s political instability. It’s important to show that.
Do you ever feel your work puts you in danger?
As a white North American woman, it’s not me who ever has to take any risks. It’s much more the people I work closely with, the people who have to stay there once the cameras are gone.
Would you ever want to take the camera and do something more personal? Something fictional?
There are lots of ideas and projects [in the works]. So we’ll see what the future brings. All I know is that I continue to feel that the work I’m doing has meaning and is useful. And that’s very validating. I keep on learning, and that’s a really important thing. We’ll see what kinds of projects [come] next.