Documentary maker Molly Dineen has expressed surprise at the reaction to her graphic film about life in the countryside, The Lie of the Land.

 

Shown first on Channel 4 on 3 May, Dineen’s documentary follows the livelihoods of two hunt workers – knackermen – in Cornwall and a farmer in the Cotswolds, Glyn Pearman.

 

Speaking to FWi after a public screening of the film at the Royal Society for Arts in London last night (21 May), she said the film was not intended to “hit people over the head”.

 

“The film constantly refers back to [country] sport but in fact the main line is definitely about farming animals and food production. I’m a bit surprised but very delighted that it’s been taken 100% as part of the discussion about food production.”

 

During the post-screening debate she said: “I think that Glyn and the other characters in the film have had a lot of response, a lot of reaction, a lot of questions. I’m pleased to say the people who have spoken to me have said that it’s made them really think twice about where their food comes from.”

 

Depicting graphic scenes of the killing of healthy but valueless calves, Dineen said she was aware “things weren’t right” in the countryside but that solutions based purely on economics would not provide the answers.

 

Molly Dineen 2

Documentary maker Molly Dineen

 

“The problem with industrial parallels and economic arguments is that you’re dealing with animals – the sentiment over animals, hypocrisy over animals, disposal of animals. You could easily say: If it’s cheaper from Venezuela it should come from Venezuela. But we’re talking about animals and flesh and what we put in our bodies, and our relationship with the land.”

 

She believed DEFRA failed to understand key issues around food production.

 

“It was the one big thing we didn’t agree on. They said let’s talk widgets and I said this is not widgets; you’re dealing with different things.”

 

Reaction from the audience at the RSA suggested a better understanding of food and farming issues was a good, and necessary, thing.

 

National Farmers’ Union deputy president Meurig Raymond said: “Unless people start recognising what it costs to produce a litre of milk – it costs 23-24p per litre to produce to the standards expected and we get 17-18p. It’s the same in the beef sector. Until society and the food chain start recognising that there’s a true cost of production, farmers will hold on long enough, but eventually they’ll just walk away from the land. So I think society needs to wake up; the major retailers need to wake up.”

 

“I think it’s a despicable form of slavery that we push our problems to somewhere else in the world. We are the people who make that possible because we don’t query it.” – Rosie Boycott, former editor of The Independent

 

Mr Pearman echoed that view. “I am embarrassed to say that I can earn a decent living out of producing pheasants for sport, for the leisure industry, and I cannot make a living out of the farm producing beef and corn. Now somehow, somewhere, the priority is wrong.”

 

Nearly 200 people attended the screening and discussion – which was chaired by former editor of the Independent, Rosie Boycott – including representatives from the NFU, the Country Land and Business Association, Linking Environment and Farming, Friends of the Earth, and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

 

Boycott told FWi: “I think the film wakes people up to the fact there’s something wrong in the countryside. It wakes you up to the fact it’s a mess – we take food for granted.”

 

And of the increasing propensity for importing cheaper and cheaper food, she added: “I think it’s a despicable form of slavery that we push our problems to somewhere else in the world. We are the people who make that possible because we don’t query it.”

 

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