Symphony of the Soil Screening @ the SteamPlant on Fri., April 22 - Earth Day

edited March 2016 in Events

_Symphony of the Soil_ A Multi-Film Project by Deborah Koons Garcia

The widow of Jerry Garcia, Deborah Koons Garcia will be at the SteamPlant for this incredible showing of the film she directed, Symphony of the Soil. Tickets are $12/each in advance and $15 the day of the event. Advance tickets are available at and at the SteamPlant Box Office. The film will begin @ 7:00 p.m., with the doors opening @ 6:30 p.m.


Symphony of the Soil is a 104-minute documentary feature film that explores the complexity and mystery of soil. Filmed on four continents and sharing the voices of some of the world’s most esteemed soil scientists, farmers and activists, the film portrays soil as a protagonist of our planetary story. Using a captivating mix of art and science, the film shows that soil is a complex living organism, the foundation of life on earth. Yet most people are soil-blind and “treat soil like dirt.” Through the knowledge and wisdom revealed in this film, we can come to respect, even revere, this miraculous substance, and appreciate that treating the soil right can help solve some of our most pressing environmental problems. In addition to the feature film, there are several short films, Sonatas of the Soil, that delve deeply into soil-related topics, and several short clips, Grace Notes, that are available to stream on the film’s website.


The first third of Symphony of the Soil is devoted to soil science: the birth of soil, the life cycle of soil, the physical components of soil, the soil orders, the microorganisms that cycle nutrients, soil and plants, and the interrelationship of the many members of the soil community, including humans. By delving deeply into soil science with hands-on and charismatic soil scientists, viewers will develop an interest in, and fascination with, this miraculous substance.

Soil science is increasingly cutting edge and relevant. Because of advances in technology like electron microscopes and satellite images, we can examine this diverse material in ever greater detail. Soil is alive, and its health and survival are intricately connected to that of all life. A sampling of what we see in this first section includes: a visit to the glaciers of Norway with Dr. Ignacio Chapela of UC Berkeley; an exploration with Dr. Peter Vitousek of Stanford University of an active volcano in Hawaii and the soil that develops from its tephra, ranging from 50 year old soil to 4 million year old soil; Dr. John Reganold shows us some of the most fertile land in the world, the Palouse of Washington State; Dr. Elaine Ingham enthuses about the billions of organisms that create the cycles of fertility in soil. The film includes hand painted animation to explain various processes such as photosynthesis and the nitrogen cycle.

The second third of the film focuses on our human relationship with soil, especially our use of soil as an agricultural medium. This section begins with Patrick Holden, longtime director of the Soil Association in the U.K., standing in his fields in Wales, declaring that agriculture is a “dance with nature.” We visit farmers and scientists who explain why we must give back to the soil, returning to it what we take out in the form of crops, a concept that is known as Sir Albert Howard’s “Law of Return.”

Various wholesome farming practices are explored: to till or not to till; composting; cover crops – the value of legumes to replenish nitrogen to the soil; and crop rotation. We are exposed to a variety of farming systems such as organic agriculture, permaculture, and Biodynamic farming. At the Rodale Institute, we see their 30-year field trials comparing industrial practices with organic methods and learn how soil with organic matter in it vastly improves water use. MacArthur Fellow Dr. David Montgomery leads us through a history of agriculture and the use and misuse of soil through the ages. Peter Segger and Ann Evans in Wales and Warren Weber, founder of Star Route Farms, the first certified organic farm in California, tell us about their evolving techniques for enhancing soil fertility. Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm in California talks about the value of animals on the farm. In India, Jaspal Singh Chattha, a Biodynamic farmer in the Punjab, shares the “art of making compost” and how he has regenerated his land after the ravages of the Green Revolution. Dr. Michael Hansen of Consumers Union and Dr. Warren Porter of University of Wisconsin report the latest science about the dangerous environmental and health effects of the toxic chemicals and nitrates so prevalent in industrial farming today. This section also covers such topics as biofuels, genetic engineering and overuse of nitrogen, as well as the crucial role soil plays in sequestering carbon.

The third section of the film explores Big Picture ideas such as soil and climate change, water use, health and a variety of other topics that support the case for treating soil with care. For example, Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow at The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture explains how returning to small scale organic farming is a viable solution to the problems of resource depletion, climate change and the end of oil. Vandana Shiva, physicist and environmental activist, speaks of the importance of seeds and seed saving from her fields in India. The Intervale in Burlington, Vermont had been farmland during revolutionary times but had become literally the town dump when entrepreneur Will Raap worked to revitalize this bottomland. Now the many farms and community gardens there provide 10% of the fresh produce in the city. Stone Barns, just north of New York City, is the home of a world class restaurant and a gathering place for the community. A wonderful back and forth discussion between acclaimed chef Dan Barber and Four Seasons Farm Manager Jack Algiere reveals an admirable dynamic between chef and grower. Esteemed soil scientist Dr. Daniel Hillel, now 80 years old, philosophizes about our origins as people of the soil.

The film ultimately raises consciousness about how we think about and treat soil. We see that destructive land use practices degrade and poison the soil and that we must take responsibility for protecting and improving soil for the generations to come. This heightened, science-based awareness can inform our responses to proposed U.S. Farm Bill policies, improve our backyard gardening skills and educate us about the consequences of our food choices on the environment. For example, Symphony of the Soil shows how municipalities, such as the City of San Francisco, have taken on large scale composting initiatives. These days many backyard gardeners, small scale farmers, and organic food enthusiasts recognize the necessity for turning food and yard waste into compost which can enhance soil fertility. Indeed, healthy soil creates healthy plants which create healthy people.

Why should we care about soil? As climate change and the increase in carbon emissions in the atmosphere cause more and more disasters, carbon sequestration becomes increasingly important. Healthy, living soil enhances the earth’s natural ability to hold carbon in the soil, thus reducing the emission of “greenhouse gasses” into the atmosphere and thereby alleviating global warming. Improving soil also improves water use. Understanding and respecting the power and potential that soil has to help solve environmental problems is essential. Once people have that understanding and appreciation, they will move towards appropriate action. As Dr. Fred Kirschenmann, farmer and philosopher, tells us, restoring the fertility of our soil is the single most important challenge we face today.


Symphony of the Soil is a production of Lily Films. It took 5 years to make and was filmed on four continents, in six countries, the United States, England, Wales, India, Egypt, and Norway. Some of the locations include (US)Oregon, Washington, California, New York, West Virginia, Kansas, Iowa, Vermont, Hawaii, (England) Devon, Hastings, Bristol, (Wales) Ceredigion, (India) Punjab, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, (Egypt) Cairo, Aswan, and (Norway) Tromso.

Principle crew & credits includes: Vivien Hillgrove - Editor John Chater – Director of Photography Nancy Schiesari – UK Director of Photography Todd Boekelheide – Composer Will Kim – Artist and Animator Sarah Gorsline – Post-Production Coordinator & Associate Producer Jessy Beckett – Production Manager & Associate Producer Ariana Garfinkel – Archival Researcher & Licensing and Associate Producer Carolina Cruz Santiago – Associate Producer Molly Jones – Associate Producer


A special work-in-progress version of Symphony of the Soil was shown at U.C. Berkeley as The Hans Jenny Memorial Lecture in the spring of 2010. The film includes several of the university’s distinguished soil scientists. A special version was also shown at Yale University and California State University at Fresno, as part of the school’s 100th Anniversary Celebration. The film was the cultural showpiece for the 20th World Congress of Soil Science in May 2014 and on World Soil Day, December 5, 2014 Symphony of the Soil was an official part of the United Nations Celebrations for the International Year of the Soil at the United Nations in New York and The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN in Rome, Italy.

SYMPHONY OF THE SOIL – FILM FESTIVAL SCREENINGS Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, Washington, DC, March 2012 Sonoma International Film Festival in Sonoma, CA, April 2012 Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival in Minneapolis/St. Paul, April 2012 Greentopia Film Festival in Rochester, NY, September 2012 SXSW Eco in Austin, TX, October 2012 Open Cinema in Canada, October 2012 Life Sciences Film Festival in Prague, Czech Republic, October 2012 American Conservation Film Festival, November 2012 Sustainable Living Film Festival in Istanbul, November 2012 Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, CA, January 2013 Princeton Environmental Film Festival in Princeton, NJ, February 2013 Cinema Verde Film Festival in Gainesville, FL, February 2013 Sacramento Food Film Festival in Sacramento, CA, March 2013 Sustainable Living Film Festival in Ankara, April 2013 International Festival of Science Documentary Films, Olomouc, Czech Republic, April 2013 Sausalito Film Festival, Sausalito, CA, May 2013 Crossroads Film Festival, Graz, Austria, May 2013 Jacob Burns Nature Series, Opening Night, Pleasantville, NY September 2013 Boston Environmental Film Festival, Boston, MA, May 2014 Mendocino Film Festival, Mendocino, CA May 2014

SYMPHONY OF THE SOIL – CONFERENCE SCREENINGS AND SHOWCASES Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York, 2012 The Biochar Conference 2012 Heirloom Seed Expo 2012 in California Common Ground Fair in Maine, 2012 Maker Faire 2012 in California The Soil Science Society of America Conference 2012 in Cincinnati, OH Ecofarm Conference, January 2013 Canada Organics Growers Conference, February 2013 MOSES Organic Farming Conference, February 2013 Weston A. Price Foundation Conference, November 2013 Bioneers Conference, San Rafael, CA, October 2013 Musem of Science, Boston, MA, January 2014 Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn, CA March 2014 The World Congress of Soil Science, May 2014 The Camden Conference, Camden ME, August 2014 California EPA, Sacramento, CA, September 2014 The United Nations, World Soil Day, New York, NY December 2014 The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, Rome, Italy, December 2014

SYMPHONY OF THE SOIL – AWARDS - Winner of the Life Sciences Film Festival, Prague 2012 - Merit Award for Scientific Information from the Montana CINE International Film Festival, September 2012 - Deborah Koons Garcia received the John de Graaf Environmental Filmmaking Award for her body of films on agriculture, genetically modified food and sustainability at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, January 2013 - Winner of the 2013 Cinema Verde Film Festival’s Food Award

SYMPHONY OF THE SOIL – PRESS Symphony of the Soil has been written about in such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post and Sunset Magazine . Some memorable quotes include:

• “Unfolding with gentle joy and an unexpected beauty, this ode to the miracle of the Earth’s topmost layer gives us a newfound respect for the ground beneath our feet.” - New York Times, Critics Pick • “This film raises the bar. It makes you care about our Earth’s precious skin, so rare among planets.” - Washington Post • "[Deborah Koons Garcia} combines these serious concerns with a skillful mix of art and science in which soil is revealed to be a living organism, and the foundation of life on earth." – IndieWire • "a science doc stuffed with information that makes the living skin of the Earth" sound much more interesting than one might think dirt could be." - Hollywood Reporter • “True to its title, the film really makes a symphony of soil...” - Civil Eats • “Symphony of the Soil delivers the goods.” - The Village Voice • “There’s a glowing appreciation for the rarity and value of truly fertile soil” - Film Journal International • “Re-envisioning soil as an essential yet underappreciated resource that sustains many forms of life, including the crops that feed us.” - San Francisco Chronicle • "Shows that even soil can be a sexy screen star." – Sunset Magazine

1650 x 2250 - 984K
Sign In or Register to comment.