A notable takeaway from Percy vs. Goliath is the size of the genetically modified seed market and the stake that large corporations hold in it. For subject of the film, Percy Schmeister, his generations-long farming practice was to become inextricably linked to big business titan, Monsanto.
A farmer in his late 60s, Percy Schmeiser (played by Christopher Walken) has been growing food on his family farm his entire life. Like his father, grandfather and great grandfather before him, Percy inspires a new generation in his granddaughter who toils by his side in the fields. He is what he calls a “seed-saver”; he has bottles of seeds from years past collecting dust in his shed.
Suddenly, his life is turned upside down when he gets sued by the world’s largest chemical/agriculture company, Monsanto. The company claims Percy is using their new genetically modified canola seeds without a licence. Percy is dumbfounded by the allegation, unaware of Monsanto’s involvement with canola and insists that his own seeds nurtured over decades, are more disease tolerant than those from any chemical company.
Percy and wife Louise (Roberta Maxwell) enlist the help of lawyer Jackson Weaver (Zach Braff) to answer their fight in the local courts, for which they are somewhat ill-prepared and outnumbered by the Monsanto legal team. They lose the battle but continue the fight, even after friends begin to turn against them. Percy becomes all-consumed by his fight for justice and soon he’s neglecting his farm and family in his need to “set things right.”
The media spotlight surrounding Percy attracts the attention of environmental lobbyist, Rebecca Salcau (Christina Ricci). She urges Percy to go bigger about the impact of business on farmers and consumers, as a means to shed light on her causes. As he explores Monsanto’s business practices further, Percy realizes his battle is not isolated. Rather, he is 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. He is an unsuspecting folk hero and leader in a war to protect farmers’ rights and the world’s food supply against corporate greed.
Percy’s story is well known across the globe. There are laws named after him in Europe, where his struggle against the genetically-modified industry inspired many. His prominence in India is perhaps the most telling, where he received the Mahatma Gandhi award, and where farmers who speak little English know the name Percy Schmeiser.
Percy vs Goliath opens nationally today. Check your local guides for screening times.
About Percy vs Goliath
Running time: 100 minutes
Directed by Clark Johnson
Written by Garfield L Miller, Hilary Pryor
Stars Christopher Walken, Roberta Maxwell, Christina Ricci, Zach Braff, Martin Donovan, Peter Stebbings, Luke Kirby