Percy vs. Goliath

Drama | 120 Minutes

Canada: Friday, October 16, 2020

Saban Films


for some thematic elements.

Based on events from a 1998 lawsuit, PERCY follows small-town farmer Percy Schmeiser, who challenges a major conglomerate when the company's genetically modified (GMO) canola is discovered in the 70-year-old farmer's crops. As he speaks out against the company's business practices, he realizes he is representing thousands of other disenfranchised farmers around the world fighting the same battle. Suddenly, he becomes an unsuspecting folk hero in a desperate war to protect farmers' rights and the world's food supply against what they see as corporate greed.

Cast & Crew

Movie Cast
  • Christina Ricci
  • Chistopher Walken
  • Zach Braff
  • Luke Kirby
Movie Crew
  • Clark Johnson
  • Garfield Lindsay Miller
  • Hilary Pryor

User Reviews

Public Reviews - 1 Reviews
  • Gregory M. - Rated it 3 out of 5

    "Percy" Based on events from a 1998 lawsuit, "Percy" follows a Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser (Christopher Walken) who defends himself against a major conglomerate when the company’s genetically modified (GMO) canola is discovered in his crops. He and his family risk everything defending themselves against the giant corporation while representing thousands of other disenfranchised farmers in a desperate war to protect farmers’ rights and the world’s food supply against corporate greed. "Percy" is based on the events of an independent canola farmer’s six-year long crusade against global corporate monolith, 'Monsanto'. Accused of growing the company's genetically modified organisms without a licence and forced to risk losing his land, 67-year-old Percy Schmeiser takes his fight to the highest court, challenging the multinational’s right to own life itself. Publicly disgraced by the agrochemical giant, Schmeiser becomes all-consumed by his fight for justice and soon he’s neglecting his farm and family in his need to set things right. As he begins to explore 'Monsanto’s' business practices, Schmeiser soon realizes his battle is not isolated. Rather, he's fighting for hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised farmers around the world. Hitting the road to raise money for his defence, Percy talks to crowds large and small, building a movement. Suddenly, he's an unsuspecting folk hero and leader in a war to protect farmer’s rights and the world’s food supply against corporate greed. What can an ordinary man do against global corporations that are more powerful than countries? The task seems insurmountable, hopeless. But Schmeiser and his wife, Louise (Roberta Maxwell), never give in to bullies and together they face the final battle against 'Monsanto’s' multi-million-dollar legal team. Percy suits up with lawyer Jackson Weaver (Zach Braff) and gains support from 'GMO'-activist Rebecca Salcau (Christina Ricci). Percy Schmeiser is a rugged farmer in his late 60s. He has been growing food on his family farm his entire life. His world is shaken when he discovers he's being sued by the world’s largest chemical agriculture company, 'Monsanto'. The company claims Percy is using their new genetically modified seeds without a licence. Percy denies the claims. He reminds anyone who would listen that he's a seed-saver, and has been developing his own disease- resistant seeds for nearly 50 years. He insisted that his seeds are better than 'Monsanto’s', and that he has never even known about his accuser's high-tech 'GMOs'. In fact, Percy believes 'Monsanto' is aware his seeds are better than theirs, and that they're trying to steal his life’s work! Percy has a choice, pay a small fine and admit to doing something he hasn't done, challenge the massive multinational in the courts, a fight no one but Percy thought he could win. Percy dug his heels in, no one is going to infringe on his 'God' given right to farm his own land as he saw fit. And, no one is going to get away with calling him a thief and dragging his family’s name through the dirt. Determined to stand by his principles, Percy risks the loss of his family farm and takes his battle with 'Monsanto' all the way to 'The Supreme Court', eventually, to the global court of public option. As he speaks out against 'Monsanto’s' business practices, Schmeiser realizes he's representing thousands of other disenfranchised farmers around the world fighting the same battle. Suddenly, he becomes an unsuspecting folk hero in a desperate war to protect farmers’ rights and the world’s food supply against corporate greed. Over his six-year fight, this pragmatic yet tenacious family man became an international hero, and an outspoken champion for the rights of all farmers. His courage inspires new laws to protect the people who grow our food. After many years of hard work, Percy’s devoted wife Louise does not hide her wish for Percy to retire and give up farming. Her dream of a leisurely retirement is dashed by Monsanto’s legal attack against her husband. Fearing financial ruin, initially Louise pleads with Percy to settle 'Monsanto’s' claim against him. Later she realizes Percy is waging a civil rights battle for all farmers, a struggle for justice that's bigger than her own hopes and dreams and she's as determined as Percy to fight for what's right. Percy’s lawyer, Jackson Weaver, leads his often-reticent client through the uncharted legal waters of biological patent infringement, all the way to 'The Supreme Court Of Canada'. A passionate and professional environmental lobbyist, Rebecca encourages Percy in his battle with 'Monsanto'. Her motives behind her support of Percy is to stop the wide-spread development of 'GMO' wheat. That's to prevent 'GMO' wheat from becoming as prevalent as 'GMO# canola and soy in North America. She believes that publicizing 'Monsanto’s' case against Percy could lead to a broader debate about the harmful effects of genetically modified crops on consumers, and farmers. Percy’s son Peter (Luke Kirby) lives in Saskatoon with his wife Carla (Dana Leitold) and young daughter Mary (Meghan-Lewis O'Connor); he works as a school-teacher. Peter knows his father is wounded because he rejected farming, and deep-down Peter feels some guilt about it. But as the legal battle with 'Monsanto' consumes more of Percy’s time, energy and money, Peter begins to believe his father is being selfish. Peter feels angry about the impact the fight with 'Monsanto' is having on his mother Louise and her health. A young farmer, Alton Kelly (Adam Beach) is Percy’s devoted employee and right-hand man. Since Peter has never displayed any interest in working on the farm, Alton’s work is vital to the success of Percy’s canola operation. Percy has known Alton since he was a kid, and is a father figure to him. Like Percy, Alton is a reticent public figure, but he steps-up to the occasion and defends Percy in court. 'Monsanto' introduced the first 'GMOs' into market in the mid-1990s and these crops, cotton, soy, corn and canola, were instantly surrounded in controversy. In the beginning, 'Monsanto' figured out how to splice a gene into the seed that makes the grown plant resistant to the powerful herbicide, glyphosate. A farmer can then spray a growing crop with glyphosate herbicide a chemical that will kill all the surrounding weeds, but the crop that contains the gene will survive. There were many different reasons people were initially against 'GMOs'. There were those who were generally opposed to the playing god science of gene splicing, inserting fish genes into tomatoes. Others were concerned about the health ramifications of humans eating new and untested crops that were entering the food system. Others were worried about the environmental concern of releasing these ‘unnatural’ and uncontrollable crops into nature, this was specifically a concern with 'The Terminator' or sterile 'GMO' seeds although these never went to market due to the public backlash. And there were concerns around the fact that growing glyphosate-resistant 'GMOs' required far more use of the herbicide, glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in 'Monsanto’s' infamous 'Roundup', with massive lawsuits against the company for declaring that 'Roundup' was safe, when in fact they knew that it wasn’t. Finally, there were those who objected to the idea that 'GMOs' meant that corporations could suddenly patent and own living, reproducing organism. Not just a single plant, but all of that plant’s offspring as well, as long as it included the genetically modified gene. In order to protect it's invention, 'Monsanto' required farmers using their seeds to sign contracts in which they agreed to buy new seeds every season. This last concern is the subject of Percy, where an independent farmer who has dedicated his life to developing his own seed stock, saving seeds from his strongest plants year after year, discovers that 'Monsanto’s' gene has, unbeknownst to him, found its way into his seed stock. He never bought 'Monsanto’s' seeds. He never signed their contract. But suddenly, everything he’s worked his whole life developing belongs to the company. "Percy" is as an archetypal story with a potent relevance to our times. Percy is a Canadian farmer whose knowledge, and sense of who he's, has been passed down through generations. His technique of saving seeds, his pride in his work, these are the things that defined him. The letter he receives from 'Monsanto' shakes him to his core. When they accuse him of stealing their seeds, to his ears they're casting doubt on his very identity. Percy is a ‘David', but this is more than a standard 'David And Goliath' story. Percy represents all of us whose lives have been disrupted by the accelerating monolithic steamroller of extreme modernization in our world. When Percy gathers the courage to fight back, he stirs something in all of us that knows that some change is not progress at all. Percy represents a specifically Canadian archetype, related to ‘David'. His humility and discomfort with the spotlight, combined with his strong sense of right and wrong, exemplifies the best that the world sees in Canadians and that we see in ourselves. The fact that those two qualities, in our story, are at odds with each other creates an inner battle that Percy must navigate. When Percy realizes that his struggle is not only his own but also that of the farmers around the world, our story becomes a quintessentially Canadian hero’s journey. Percy has that voice, both flawed and righteous, but one that, as born out in his story, cannot be silenced. The bones of the story are easily defined. The little guy versus the big guy. The human versus the inhuman. The hero’s need to overcome his own faults and insecurities in order to win the battle on the big stage. The challenge and the imperative is to put flesh on those bones, to build a creature that will be both familiar and new to audiences. Percy’s story is well known across the globe. There are laws named after him in Europe, where his struggle against 'The GMO' industry inspired many. The first 'FarmAid' concert was in 1985. They’ve been around for a long time. The film gives us a little context for what life was like for a farmer like Percy in 1998 and how that has changed over the last several years. What might be most different now? Our understanding is that we've’ve been covering these issues for a long time and covering these issues at the same time when that case was breaking. 'Farm Aid' works year-round to build a system of agriculture that values family farmers, good food, soil and water, and strong communities. Their annual music-and-food festival celebrates farmers, eaters and music coming together for change. It's a very profound alteration in the way that farmers had grown crops for centuries. Over the last 20-some years agriculture has evolved a great number of farmers like Percy, you know, sort of put into a box where the big agrochemical companies like 'Monsanto', 'DuPont', 'Syngenta', 'BASF' have reaped billions and billions of dollars while many farmers have been sort of confined to a very narrow space where they're growing crops that are largely dictated by what makes the most money for these companies, not what's best for farmers, not what’s best for human health, not what’s best from the environment. In the 1990s, 2000s and still today is one that has a tolerance to glyphosate like 'The Round-Up Ready Canola' that we see in the movie so that farmers can go out and spray their fields directly over-the-top with glyphosate-based herbicide like 'Roundup$. The crops won’t die but the weeds will and it’s interesting to note that while 'Monsanto' introduced this technology saying it would be very beneficial to farmers, they did it at a time when they're losing their patent on glyphosate and they're looking for a way to hold on to that market share and both increase the sales of glyphosate and increase the sales of their own 'Roundup' of course. They’ve made billions and billions of dollars because of it. The reality that most farmers are living within is sort of what we see today. This consolidation of farmland and the rise of giant farms where hundreds of thousands of acres are producing very few commodities and in a lot of ways, farmers are really forced into that. Something that Percy really lifts up so well is the sense of intrusion and division that came into rural economies and rural communities as corporate agriculture grew in power but also the loss of agency that farmers are feeling over major management decisions on the farm. So in "Percy", that corporate force is embodied in 'Monsanto' and the agency that's being lost is the freedom to roam his fields each season and find the most robust plants and save the seeds for those plants for the next season. 'Monsanto' is literally taking away that right to save seeds and across all kinds of agriculture we see those dynamics today where farmers have lost agency over many different kinds of aspects of their farm business. And, as the economic ecosystem they’ve been operating in has become more consolidated and condensed, the power in the marketplace and in the political system is concentrated into the hands of very few. Farmers rely and pay someone for input. And then they rely on who they sell their goods to. And both ends of the market are becoming squeezed for the farmer. So, they are operating on tighter and tighter margins. They're not only business managers, they are agronomists. They understand soil science, they're at the whims of climate, they're at the whims of politics and trade disputes as we’ve seen more recently. The film wants to echo how much the pandemic is ripping up the veil about the failures of a consolidated food system. The fact that we've farmers dumping product in one part, and empty shelves in another. This atrocious illustration of the fact that if we really localized our food systems, farmers could much more nimbly respond to community needs and in fact, there's a program going out through 'The US Department Of Agriculture' right now and the farmers who've been part of feeding communities locally, who received grants, are running laps around bigger corporate players who also were awarded contracts to feed communities right now. It’s a global challenge. It’s interesting, we’re all sort of saying the same things. The bottom line is that the systems by which we produce food are failing. They’re failing the people that are producing the food, they're failing us as consumers, and they're failing the planet. You know, the systems by which we produce food for example are producing about a third of greenhouse gas emissions. The farmer is playing a role in that, but they exist in a system but obviously needs to be transformed. A big shift, the incentives that exist, the regulations that exist need to change. The farmers are being forced into these decisions that maybe in isolation makes sense for themselves and their families but when scaled up aren’t working for us. And really have it start to rethink the individual choices we start to make, and get governments, and companies and farmers to rethink the choices they make themselves individually and also together. written by Gregory Mann

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