- Jennifer Baichwal
- Dewayne “Lee” Johnson
- 98 min.
- Release Date
Into the Weeds tells an all-too-familiar story rooted in consumer advocacy, environmental awareness, and corporate misconduct. Director Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary details one of the many lawsuits against Monsanto, which Bayer purchased in 2018. For decades, Monsanto had known their herbicide, Roundup, could cause cancer in humans—specifically, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The doc details the suit filed by a groundskeeper, Lee Johnson, who accused Monsanto of covering up evidence that their commercial-grade version of Roundup, called Ranger Pro, was dangerous. At times, the film plays like a Court TV clip show, with long passages of Johnson’s attorney making his arguments and showing evidence to the jury. Editors Roland Schlimme and David Wharnsby also incorporate talking head interviews with scientists and other victims, news footage, and home movies from Johnson’s life. The format can feel like a hodgepodge at times, but the disturbing story is a riveting account of a capitalist conspiracy on Monsanto’s part to keep their product on the market. Their attempts to discredit science and personally attack researchers with bogus new reports are symptomatic of a darker trend of corporations winning the war against regulators and consumer complaints.
Fortunately, Johnson’s inevitable multi-million-dollar victory in his case is one among many, prompting Bayer to announce the active ingredient, glyphosate, will be removed in 2023. Even so, since the completion of this documentary, the company has claimed glyphosate is safe and announced plans to keep the chemical in Roundup for agricultural use. Similar to terrifying based-on-real-events thrillers such as Erin Brockovich (2000) or Dark Waters (2019), Into the Weeds reminds us that corporations may talk about ethics or their good intentions, but they’re in business to make money. If it’s too costly to live up to their word, they’ll find a way around it. In any case, the doc implants a lasting sense of dread over the lingering effects of glyphosate. Montages of seeds, dead insect populations, and farm fields accompany on-screen statistics and endless lists of foods—even organic foods—with traces of the cancer-causing chemical. It leaves the viewer with an unsettling feeling that, in addition to microplastics, PFAS, and who knows what else, we’re constantly consuming something that may eventually kill us.
(Film Movement brings Into the Weeds to digital and DVD on December 19, 2023, which you can order on their website.)