Film produced by Grand Forks grad to show at USCC

Jenna Semenoff is one producer on the film about biodiversity.

A film about biodiversity in Peru, produced by a former Grand Forks resident, will be shown at the USCC hall next week.

Opening the Earth: The Potato King is a documentary about Peruvian Julio Hancco, one of the few remaining guardians of biodiversity left in the world.

Julio Hancco lives in the Andes Mountains, at an elevation of 14,600 feet. As a child, he was passed down 60 varieties of native potatoes from his ancestors, which he has cross-bred into over 350 varieties. He cannot read or write, has no running water, and uses no modern farming equipment, yet he manages to grow more varieties of potatoes than most modernized nations on our planet. This biodiversity originates from his culture and its rich agricultural traditions passed down from the Inca Empire.

Now, modernization is threatening this way of life and all the strengths that come along with it. Youth are emigrating to the big city and leaving behind their villages, agricultural abundance and ancestral traditions. Julio Hancco is getting old, losing the strength to carry on his farming practices. He has no one to pass his knowledge on to. Will his culture survive? Or will it all be lost with the last Potato King?

Opening the Earth: The Potato King is an O Films production in association with the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD). The AASD has been working with agriculture communities over 15,000 feet in the Andes Mountains of Peru for over 10 years.

Jenna Semenoff, a Grand Forks Secondary School graduate, was a producer on the film. Semenoff grew up in Grand Forks, where her parents still live, before moving to Nelson.

“My parents have an organic garlic farm in Grand Forks and growing up we always had a big garden – organic farming, sustainability and biodiversity have always been a priority to me. I grew up learning about the importance of growing our own food and I learned from my father and mother about how to grow food in this area and they, in turn, had learned from my grandparents,” Semenoff said.

Her continued interest in sustainable development and food, combined with an interest in film, lead her to this “passion project” that took two years to complete.

Opening the Earth: The Potato King had it’s world premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California on Feb. 4, 2019. The OTE team is proud to be bringing the film to Grand Forks. The film will be shown at the Grand Forks USCC Community Centre on March 8 at 7 p.m. with admission by donation to the AASD (suggested donation $8). A brief Q&A with the producers will follow the film.

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