Into the Weeds: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson vs. Monsanto Company
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 36m
Director(s): Jennifer Baichwal
Where To Watch: available via all leading digital platforms on December 8, 2023
RAVING REVIEW: Jennifer Baichwal brings her directorial prowess to the fore in INTO THE WEEDS, weaving a story larger than life. Intensely, the documentary flings open the doors to the life of Dewayne ‘Lee’ Johnson, a former groundskeeper, who’s now locked in a David vs. Goliath tussle with Monsanto, now part of Bayer’s portfolio.
The core plot? An aggressive inquiry into the potentially dire consequences of Roundup, a herbicide with a contentious ingredient: glyphosate. As Johnson’s life plays out before us, we witness the tragic revelation of his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The twist? He pins the blame squarely on Ranger Pro, the chemical cousin of Roundup.
Baichwal’s departure from her known cinematic path crafts a more intimate portrayal of Johnson. While the film dives deep into the global repercussions of glyphosate, it always retains sight of Johnson’s spirit and journey against this giant. Nestled within the narrative are heartwarming moments spotlighting Johnson’s unwavering bond with his mother, DeLois, and partner, Araceli, painting them as his pillars of strength amidst tumultuous trials.
The documentary doesn’t stop at the personal; it broadens its lens to capture the fierce dedication of the legal team championing Johnson’s cause. The stakes skyrocket when the Monsanto Papers emerge, pulling back the curtain on the corporation’s murky undertakings. Simultaneously, INTO THE WEEDS casts its net wider, highlighting glyphosate’s sweeping environmental toll. An emotional crescendo is reached when Ray Owl, representing the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, voices their battle against aerial glyphosate onslaught.
The film’s strength is in its layered storytelling. It isn’t a singular narrative; it’s a collection of stories that share these realities with the world. From ethically torn farmers to those receiving the side effects of glyphosate, INTO THE WEEDS offers a panoramic view of a corporate giant’s vast influence.
At the epicenter of this tale stands Johnson. His introspections, bolstered by relentless determination, form the documentary’s beating heart. His legal odyssey implies broader consequences, setting the stage for reflections on business ethics, product labeling evolutions, and our planet’s fragility.
In conclusion, INTO THE WEEDS stands tall as a testament to Baichwal’s commitment to authentic, impactful stories. It’s a journey that magnifies the essence of teamwork in film creation and documentary journalism’s profound impact on our larger world. By charting a path through legal minefields, clandestine corporate moves, and one man’s unyielding determination, this documentary screams one clear message: Our choices matter.
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[photo courtesy of FILM MOVEMENT]
MY SAG-AFTRA/WGA STRIKE STATEMENT:
As an advocate for creators, actors, and writers, I firmly stand with SAG-AFTRA and the WGA in their current strike. The entertainment industry is built on these individuals’ extraordinary talents, and their contributions must be appropriately recognized and rewarded. They deserve fair compensation, sensible work hours, and respect for their creative rights. I believe in the power of unity and collective action, and I’m steadfast in my support for their fight for better working conditions and fair remuneration. Together, we can shape a more equitable future in the entertainment world.
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