After the Rain - a new documentary about the ways women farmers are coping with climate change
“It isn’t the strongest species that survives, nor even the most intelligent, but the species most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin
So begins After the Rain, the first ever documentary film made by a Macedonian director about climate change, will be screened in Skopje on 20 November as part of the European Film Festival Cinedays. The film was produced with the technical and financial support of UNDP, the Global Environment Facility, and the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning.
The documentary portrays four women, aged between forty and eighty, who work as farmers in the country. The women are from diverse backgrounds—Macedonian, Turkish and Albanian—and each has a very different attitude towards their work on the land.
At seventy-two years old, Gjurgja Rizova sees the fields as her ‘medicine’ and she farms the land with love. “We can barely feed ourselves these days,” she says, many of her crops are dying, and the hybrid seeds she now has to buy are causing unprecedented problems with weeds. “We’ve been through everything,” she says, but never has she known it rain so much nor seen so many crops fail. The only solution, she feels, is to switch to farming only corn and keeping bees.
For Sacie Aliova, meanwhile, farming seems like a prison sentence and she dreams of escape and going to school. Asie Pairi has been working the tobacco fields since she was only ten years old. “We didn’t have schools back then” she says, “Now I’d prefer not to work in the fields – I’d go to school instead.” But while more frequent hailstorms of late have ruined her tobacco crops and left her family destitute, she still experiments with different crops in a desperate attempt to adapt to the changing conditions.
Biology teacher, Biljana Ilieva, refuses to be defeated by climate change. “I’m interested in all plants,” she tells us, “It’s beautiful to watch them grow from seedlings to the moment they bear fruit.” She is highly aware of climate change and strives to use alternative sources of energy and water to help the environment. And in the face of hailstorms, she has invested in effective ways of protecting her crops. But her ‘hobby’, as she calls it, is trying out different breeds of tomato. “We hope we’re on our way to success with this hobby of ours” she says.
Despite their many differences in attitude, the four women all share the same sky and all of them are experiencing the same fears and challenges that come with climate change. Agriculture is the sector most vulnerable to climate change. The future will bring warmer summers and ever less rain and sudden storms and hail will be more frequent. Traditional ideas about the kinds of weather typical of each season will need to be revised.
Rain is a key motif throughout the film and creates a particular dramatic tension as we witness for ourselves the problems these farmers face on a daily basis—destroyed roots, sick leaves and plants, dried-up fruits.
The overriding message of this innovative documentary, however, comes through from the determination of these women to overcome the challenges they face. And that message, from the mouths of those who know the issues of climate change from the very root, is that those who survive climate change are those who are capable of adaptation. The time to adapt is now!
About the author:
Biljana Garvanlieva is a freelance director of documentary films who lives and works in Skopje and Berlin. Born in Skopje in 1973, she studied dramaturgy in her hometown before receiving a grant in 1999 from the German Academic Exchange Service to study theatre and film at the Free University of Berlin (Freien Universität Berlin). In 2006 she directed her first documentary for the TV network 3sat, entitled Macedonian Dream. A Girl and her Accordion, which has won several awards, including the Golden Lola German Short Film Award. In 2009 she followed up her first success with Tobacco Girl, which has received numerous awards for its direction, including nominations for the Golden Lola and the Juliane Bartel German Media Award. In 2010, Garvanlieva was awarded the Heart of Sarajevo prize for Best Documentary at the 16th Sarajevo Film Festival for her documentary film The Seamstresses.