TIFF 2022: Gabriela Cowperthwaite's Eye-Opening New Doc 'The Grab'
by Alex Billington
September 18, 2022
There are plenty of documentaries being made all the time now about climate change and its devastating impact on this planet. Before all of these, there was one doc that changed the entire conversation early on – Davis Guggenheim & Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, which premiered in 2006 and went on to win two Academy Awards (and tons of other prizes). With climate change getting worse and worse, and not much hope on the horizon of slowing it down, the conversation among the powerful is now beginning to change instead to – what's going to happen next and how can we manage the inevitable natural disasters and social upheaval. One of the big questions on the horizon over the next few decades is: how will food sources and farms be affected as the world heats up. Which brings us to this documentary The Grab, made by Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, premiering at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival. It's the next major doc that can change the entire conversation just like An Inconvenient Truth did. I was in shock after watching it.
What is so shocking about The Grab and what it tells us? Multiple people in the film state it clearly: the 20th century was about gaining power through the control of oil, the 21st century is/will be about gaining power through the control of food & water. Ohh yes, get ready, it's already happening, and it doesn't look good. Various governments around the world are snatching up land, water sources, farms, and livestock – buying massive amounts of these commodities in order to be prepared for the food & water crises that are on the way. This has been going on for years already – wealthy / powerful people are purchasing farms and water all over the planet (often with money made from oil). But this is the first time I've seen this all presented so clearly, with such a specific focus on what is going on & why and how it's connected to climate change. And how screwed we all are… Unfortunately there's not much we can do, as citizens we can't exactly stop them from doing this. Even the farmers and land owners can't do much. And that's what is truly horrifying, folks.
Cowperthwaite's The Grab is another "holy shit" eye-opening film based on actual investigative journalism revealing how food & water is the next crisis the planet will be facing. In fact, it's already facing this crisis, but it's mainly affecting third world countries right now and places on this planet that most of just don't care about (harsh but it's true). We only care about our own family's ability to eat and maybe the citizens of our own country. The point, however, is not that we should be doing something about that but we should be looking at the bigger picture and understanding what's really going on – how the world is preparing for a battle of nation vs nation all over again. Saudi Arabia and China are highlighted in this film as countries making very quiet, pre-emptive moves to purchase & run farms in different countries in order to make sure their own agriculture & food supply is stable. The film also points out that when people are hungry, when they can't easily get food, this is when they begin to revolt and rise up and overthrow governments. This fear has driven them to make food a top priority of importance as a method of maintaining stability and control.
The challenge of writing about documentary films like this is I'm not entirely sure how to rate them. Do I give it a high rating because it's an important topic and I want everyone to see it and I think the discussion matters the most? What if have a few problems with the filmmaking, does that mean I should brush off all these minor inconveniences because it's more important people see this film? The only thing I care about after watching The Grab is that everyone else watches it. I am hopeful that in much the same way An Inconvenient Truth changed the way we talk about climate change, turning it into an everyday conversation supported by irrefutable facts from scientists & researchers, The Grab will change the way we talk about nationalism and control over food & water. We're heading towards a frightening future. Most of this film is based around a group of investigative reporters retelling their story of how they came across all of this, how they researched it further, and what they discovered. There's also a reveal of the "trove" of emails related to one company's blatantly obvious involvement in these deals and how they're facilitating land or water grabs.
Whatever the case, I'm in awe by what this film tells us. It's presented not only in a fascinating way, but in an alarming "we have to do something" way. This is, once again, a story about powerful people remaining in power and maintaining control – by buying this planet's food and water. The entire film is about meticulous investigations that show that governments & powerful people are planning for this future right NOW. But are we?? Are the rest of us even thinking about this?? Sure, of course, we get worried about food prices and food supply issues. But there is something much bigger going on, and most can't even comprehend it until we zoom out and look at what's going on with all these power grabs. Similar to the way the documentaries about this da Vinci paining "Salvator Mundi" eventually revealed that it's also all about power, this film tells us the truth about what powerful people who rule over us are planning for and we need to be more aware of (and worried) about this. Now is the time to start talking about it – the entire planet's food and water is at risk. It may even be too late. Thank you, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, for revealing it for all of us to learn about.