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Mad Cow Sacred Cow

Synopsis

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Terrified of his food, filmmaker Anand Ramayya (Cosmic Current) embarks on a journey that reveals shocking connections between the Mad Cow crisis, Farm crisis and Global Food crisis.

Ramayya realizes that the cow is not only his favourite meal but also the God of his Hindu ancestors and the livelihood of his Canadian in-laws, who are small farmers.

With a sense of humour and curiosity, Ramayya embarks on a journey to learn more about the modern Mad Cow and ancient Sacred Cow in hopes that their stories will reveal a solution to his fear of food. The journey takes him from his in-laws’ family farm all the way back to India, land of the Sacred Cow. Ironically, modern India is also home to a burgeoning meat export industry that threatens to destroy an agricultural economy centered around the Sacred Cow and critical to the livelihood of 65% of India’s population.

Globalization emerges as a re-occurring character in this journey, revealing a world gone mad, an ecological crisis, religious fundamentalism, a farmer suicide epidemic and record breaking economic growth contrasted by staggering disparity.

Is the way we eat connected to all this?

Mad Cow Sacred Cow is a universal story that connects the food we eat to the environmental, cultural, economic and health crises we are currently facing on a global level.

Weaving interviews from internationally reknowned speakers such as Dr. Vandana Shiva, Maneka Gandhi, Dr. Murray Waldman, Nettie Wiebe and Swami Agnivesh with stunning visuals of a personal journey that crosses continents, the story of Mad Cow Sacred Cow takes us from the filmmaker’s own happy days of indiscriminate beef consumption to the frightening realities created by globalization.

Ramayya realizes that the cow is not only his favourite meal but also the God of his Hindu ancestors and the livelihood of his Canadian in-laws, who are small farmers.

Trailer

Director’s Notes

anandWhat inspired you to make Mad Cow Sacred Cow?
Anand Ramayya: I had just come back from working on a documentary in India where I had reconnected to my Indian heritage in a profound way for the first time. The trip also made me realize that I was completely in love and possibly ready to settle down with a wonderful Canadian farm girl who is now my wife. I was about to marry into a proud farm family with a long history of living on the land. We were feeding her parents’ cattle, and the Mad Cow crisis was all over the news. Farmers were going bankrupt, the public was in a state of hysteria over the controversy and for the first time I was questioning the safety of my food, specifically my beloved burgers. I started doing research into how my food was being produced and came across one of my wife’s books called “Stolen Harvest” written by Dr. Vandana Shiva and in it was a chapter called Mad Cows and Sacred Cows. That chapter provided the framework for a 4 year investigation into food, culture, agriculture, the environment and cows that would result in “Mad Cow Sacred Cow”.

Along the way a lot of things happened that continued to inspire the journey: my in-laws announced they were going to slowly sell off the farm and get out of agriculture, the Mad Cow Crisis continued to sporadically rear its ugly head and the word “Crisis” would soon be common in our media – food crisis, agriculture crisis, economic crisis, energy crisis, environmental crisis. In my personal life, Teresa and I married and became parents to a baby boy named Owen, heightening not only my sense of fear but also my sense of purpose to make this film. We started shooting one and a half months after Owen was born.

How long did production take?
Production officially started in February 2007 and continued off and on until July of 2008. The entire process took much longer, researching the story, finding our subjects in Canada and India, financing, shooting and editing took 4 years.

How did you decide on what direction to take?
The Mad Cow or BSE Crisis was a departure point for this film; in a way it is my response to the BSE Crisis and because so much had been done about the BSE crisis – the science, politics and scandal of it, I realised early on that I didn’t want to retread that material. I wanted to connect this crisis to some of the bigger issues that affect our day to day lives, and I wanted to make that connection between food, agriculture, culture and ecology. (though oddly, I didn’t actually know that’s what I was doing until someone told me!)

Why be a character in your film?
The issues in Mad Cow Sacred Cow are all topical and timely but the thing that inspired me and really interested my supporters was the personal connections I had to this project. I am in a unique situation to be married into a Canadian farm family but having strong Hindu roots in Southern India. Both sides of my family have profound connections to the cow. As strange as that sounds, its true! And the more I learned about the Cow and its economic as well as cultural significance, the more I felt it was necessary to include my personal story to connect the dots.

How did the diversity of your crew influence the film?
My crew is the untold story of this film. My cinematographer Thomas Hale is a filmmaker, historian and philosopher who brought keen insight and saw things I only discovered in the editing room. My fixer in India was a young Muslim academic, filmmaker and journalist named Farhatullah Beig. His insight and passion really brought a new dimension to the film and helped me understand the complexities of India and its relationship with the Sacred Cow.

My co-producer in Canada, Ryan Lockwood, is a farm boy, raised on a farm with a large cattle operation. He brought a really unique insight into the world of the beef industry. His personal reactions to the farm crisis in India also made me truly realize that the plight of small farmers everywhere was common.

In the editing room the final and crucial crew member was Chris Bizzocchi. He came in with a fresh set of eyes and really made this film his own. Food is important to him and his family, having grown up in Vancouver and living there now. I feel he brought a sensitive, conscious urban perspective to the film. He really helped find the stories that would resonate.

To what extent was your story in place when you started to edit?
We had amassed a lot of material, (over 60 hours) and cutting that down was no small task. Our first assembly was four hours long and we thought all of it was interesting but you have to decide what’s essential and I had to go back to what my motivation was to make this film and stay focused on that, namely food, culture, and ecology.

The farm crisis and global food crisis are top of mind and sparking debate worldwide. How would you like Mad Cow Sacred Cow to contribute to the discussion?

I read this quote and felt this really summed up what I’m hoping people will think about after watching this film:

“How we eat determines how the world is used.” Wendell Berry

I wanted to make this film about big issues but it’s also very personal, and if the people who watch the film can have a personal experience that helps them think about how their own lives are connected to food, culture, and the environment, then we’ll have done something worthwhile.

Nettie Wiebe said “its about food but its also about how we live within our environment.” Again, I think its about making connections, recognizing interdependence between humankind and our life supporting systems, food, water, air, culture. I think that juxtaposing the Sacred Cow and the Mad Cow really allowed me to explore Hindu culture and modern corporate culture to show why these connections are important and how disastrous it can be when we ignore them. These are things we’ve taken for granted but our kids won’t be able to if we continue to behave the way we’re behaving. Every week there is a new “CRISIS” in the news; it feels like everything is reaching critical mass and on the verge of breakdown. I’m trying to make some small changes in my life and I’m hoping the story of Mad Cow Sacred Cow can connect with other normal likeminded people who just want to try and live more sustainably.

- Anand Ramayya

Participants

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shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva : Author “Stolen Harvest”, Eco-Feminist, Physicist & founder of Navdanya

Identified by Time Magazine as an environmental “hero” in 2003 and as one of the five most powerful communicators of Asia by Asia Week, Dr. Vandana Shiva combines the sharp intellectual enquiry with courageous activism. Among her many awards are the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award, 1993), Order of the Golden Ark, Global 500 Award of UN and Earth Day International Award. (Continue reading…)
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waldman

Dr. Murray Waldman – Author “Dying for a Hamburger,” Physician

Dr Murray Waldman, a Toronto emergency and family doctor, was the Investigating Coroner with the Chief Coroner of Ontario from 2000 – 2007.He has published numerous articles on emergency and medical ethics for the Toronto Star, the Journal of Emergency Medicine and the Canadian Medical Association. He writes a bi-weekly column, Critical Care, for the Toronto Star, and is the author of “Dying for a Hamburger – The alarming link between the meat industry and Alzheimer’s disease.” (Continue reading…)
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Cam Ostercamp – President, Beef Initiative Group & Cattle Rancher

Shortly after the BSE crisis in May 2003, cow/calf producer Cam Ostercamp, 52, from Blackie, Alta., penned the critical article “Behind the Veil of Science” outlining how the mishandling of the crisis could lead to the downfall of the Canadian beef industry. (Continue reading…)
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agnivesh

Swami Agnivesh – Human Rights Activist, spiritual advisor,
“Secular” Swami

This unusual swami (religious teacher) has been consistently doing battles on behalf of the poor, the weak and the defenseless of India. Agnivesh’s campaigns have led him to fight alcoholism, female foeticide, bonded labour, child labour as well as struggle for the emancipation of women. (Continue…)
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Maneka Gandhi – Politician, Journalist, Activist

Maneka Gandhi (née Anand; born 26 August 1956) is an Indian politician, animal rights activist, environmentalist, former journalist and the widow of influential Indian politician, Sanjay Gandhi. She has been a minister in four governments, and has authored a number of books in the areas of etymology, law and animal welfare. Maneka Gandhi is an estranged member of the Nehru-Gandhi Family. (Continue…)-
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Dr. Nettie Wiebe – Philosophy Professor, Organic Farmer & Past-President of the NFU

Nettie Wiebe farms with her partner at Laura, Saskatchewan, growing organic grains, oilseeds and pulse crops as well as raising cattle. Dr. Wiebe teaches ethics at St. Andrew’s College, University of Saskatchewan.

A former president of the National Farmers’ Union (the first woman to lead a national farm organization in Canada), Wiebe is an active participant in public policy forums across Canada and around the world speaking on such issues as sustainable agriculture and rural communities, trade agreements, women’s equality, human rights, peace, economic and environmental issues, and food security.

Dr. Wiebe was an MP candidate in one of the tightest races in the 2008 Canadian federal election.
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D.N. Jha – Indian History Professor and Author “The Myth of the Holy Cow”

Dwijendra Narayan Jha is an Indian historian, specializing in Ancient and Medieval India, Professor of History at Delhi University, and member of the Indian Council of Historical Research. Jha’s has repeatedly taken posiiton against Hindu nationalist ideology, arguing against what he claims is “communalism” and “saffronisation” during the 1998 to 2004 BJP government of the Republic of India.

Jha has received death threats over his Myth of the Holy Cow, where he dispels popular allegations that “Muslims introduced beef-eating to the Indian subcontinent”

Filmmaker

Anand Ramayya grew up in a film family and has been working on dramatic films since the age of 15. Anand spent several formative years in his twenties working and backpacking extensively throughout Asia. Upon his return to Canada he completed his Bachelor of Commerce degree and began working full time in the film industry.

Ramayya is a four-time Gemini Award winning producer and filmmaker who has worked with a number of creatives and companies from across the country. His projects have ranged from independent feature length films to stop motion animation and documentary films. “Cosmic Current”, which he wrote and directed for the National Film Board of Canada, went on to receive the 2004 Gemini Canada Award which honours excellence in Mainstream programs that reflects the cultural diversity of Canada. “Wapos Bay – There’s No ‘I’ In Hockey”, of which Ramayya is a producer, was also honoured with the Gemini Canada Award in 2006. Most recently, “Wapos Bay – The Series” was awarded the 2008 Gemini Award for Best Individual or Ensemble Performance in an Animated Program or Series. In 2007 Ramayya co-produced his first feature length dramatic film “45 RPM” starring Michael Madsen(Kill Bill), Amanda Plummer (My Life Without Me), August Schellenberg (Free Willy) and Kim Coates (Black Hawk Down). “45 RPM” is currently enjoying a festival run and is scheduled for Canadian theatrical release in early 2009.

In 2002 Anand created Karmafilm to facilitate the production of a growing slate of projects. Karmafilm is a boutique production company which focuses on intelligent, challenging and relevant content for the international marketplace. Anand served a term as President of the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Association and three years on their Board of Directors. By regularly attending markets and festivals, Anand has built strong relationships with a number of Canadian broadcasters, distributors, and production companies and looks to develop co-production opportunities with like-minded creators from around the world. Anand resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the “Paris of the Prairies”, with his wife Teresa and young son Owen.

Broadcast Partners Include: CHUM, Movie Central, TMN(The Movie Network), CBC Newsworld, CBC Kids!, APTN, SCN, Knowledge Network, CTV and Vision TV

Filmography

45 RPM – Feature Length Drama, CHUM, Movie Central, TMN, APTN, SCN
Official Selecton Vancouver International Film Festival 2008

Mad Cow Sacred Cow – Feature Length Documentary, CBC, SCN, Knowledge
Official Selection Whistler Film Festival 2008

Wapos Bay – 2008 Gemini Award–Best Individual or Ensemble Performance, APTN, NFB

Wapos Bay – 2007 Gemini Award–Best Children’s or Youth Program or Series, APTN, NFB

Cosmic Current – 1hr doc, 2004 Gemini Canada Award, CBC, Vision

Wapos Bay There’s No “I” In Hockey – 2006 Gemini Canada Award Winner, APTN, NFB

Christmas at Wapos Bay – Official Selection 2001 Sundance Film Festival

The Psychedelic Pioneers – 1 hr doc, History Television & SCN

staff

Crew

Ryan Lockwood – Producer

Co-founder and producer of Hulo Films, Ryan Lockwood is a documentary filmmaker and writer with broadcast credits as producer, show-runner, director, writer, research and sound recordist for both regional and national broadcasters. Previous to working in television production, Ryan worked as a marketing professional within the agriculture and food sector, specializing in market research and business development.

Ryan will be entering a third season of production on the award-winning documentary series Landing and is in post-production with Mad Cow Sacred Cow, shot in India and Canada for CBC’s flagship documentary series “The Lens.” Wrapping up production of his second dramatic film in July, Interpersonalities had its world premiere at the São Paulo International Film Festival in October. The US premiere is in Santa Monica, CA in November and the Canadian premiere is at the Whistler Film Festival in December. Ryan’s first film Amira, in which he wrote and directed, has traveled extensively through Canada, South Africa and Europe. Ryan has also produced numerous corporate videos. Creating socially relevant and commercially viable documentaries and new media, he prefers to work as a writer/ producer and enjoys the opportunity to pick up a boom pole.

crewThomas Hale – Cinematographer

Thomas Hale is one of a few directors in Canada who works in all three major professional categories: documentary, drama and commercials. He is also an experienced writer, cinematographer, journalist and editor. Broadcast credits include director, writer, field producer, producer, editor, cinematographer, sound recordist, boom operator and actor.

Rabbit Fall, a dramatic pilot he directed in 2005, has now completed shooting its second season. Recent documentary projects include the National Film Board production A Year at Sherbrooke (writer/director); Mad Cow Sacred Cow, shot in India in 2007 for CBC’s flagship documentary series “The Lens” (cinematographer); and two seasons of the award-winning documentary series Landing (director/ cinematographer). Beach Memories, one of the dozens of television commercials he has directed, won the 2005 ACE Award of Excellence.

Thomas is a graduate of Ryerson University’s film program. His other university studies have included history, anthropology and literature. He spent formative years traveling, and lived for a year in Paris where he learned French, studied European art and cinema, and wrote articles for his college newspaper in Canada.

Born in Toronto but growing up in Saskatoon, Thomas has made many cities around the world his home including Paris, Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria and New York City. He has been a drummer for 37 years and played his first professional music gig at the age of 14. A passionate reader since childhood, Thomas stays current in history and politics, art, literature, culture, science and economics.

Chris Bizzocchi – Editor

Chris Bizzocchi has been an editor for the last 10 years and still isn’t sure what NTSC really stands for. He was recently honored with a Leo Award for Best Editing, for his work on Kodiak, a short drama bordering on experimental, which premiered at the Vancouver Int’l Film Festival. He also edited the feature film, The Cabin Movie, a dramatic comedy directed by fellow Vancouverite, Dylan Akio Smith. The film premiered at the Toronto Int’l Film Festival and was also featured at the Vancouver Int’l Film Festival. Since finishing Mad Cow Sacred Cow, Chris has been busy working on the second season of CBC’s hit reality series, The Week the Women Went.

Chris’ other credits as a television editor, include: Death in the Forest (Global Currents), a documentary about the plight of fallers in the changing lumber industry; an On-Screen documentary series episode (Bravo! Television), charting the production of the landmark Canadian film, “I’ve Heard the Mermaid Singing”; and Happyland, a comedy special by Christine ‘Tiny’ Taylor for the CBC, featuring Kathy Jones (This Hour Has 22 Minutes).

Before focusing on broadcast work, Chris was involved with the Vancouver independent film community of the Blinding Light / Sugar Refinery days. He helped form The Narcoleptic Videographer comedy collective, working not only as an editor on every short, but often as co-director, co-writer and co-producer (www.narco.ca). Of the nearly 30 shorts in the Narcoleptic Videographer library, It’s A Boy is a personal favorite, as well as Love Flush, a popular short that screened repeatedly by request on ZedCBC. Other favorite shorts include Matt-Sinclair-Foreman’s Exposures, which garnered a Leo Award for the lead actor, Tom Scholte. When he’s not editing, Chris enjoys playing keyboards and guitar with various local bands, including Ghettoblaster and Electric Kids.

Raj Ramayya – Composer

Indo-Canadian singer/songwriter Raj Ramayya has been a consistently strong force on the international music scene. Residing between Tokyo, Japan, San Francisco, California, and his home base in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Ramayya has been featured as a guest singer/songwriter with several distinguished artists ranging from Yoko Kanno (Gundam, Cowboy Bebop, Wolfs Rain), Tatsuya Oe (Captain Funk, Hotei), Chris Mosdell (Eric Clapton, YMO), Canadian songwriting guru Ron Sexsmith, Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship, Rod Stewart), and host of others.

Ramayya has recently been awarded a Canadian motion picture award (Saskatchewan Motion Picture Association’s “NextFest”) for “Best Soundtrack” for his new Electronic Indian music project entitled “Bhang Lassi”. Bhang Lassi is featured on the Gemini award-winning documentary “Cosmic Current” and released on Dynastic Records Japan. With over 200 TV commercial co-writing, writing and singing credits to his name, Ramayya is also an instantly recognizable voice for several well known products ranging from Sapporo beer to Volvic Water as well as being a co-writer/singer for game giant Konamis’ hit series Rhythmania, Sega “Racer”, Capcom’s “Biohazard”, MTV Japan’s (Music On) hit “Golden Eggs” animation series, Victor Entertainment’s “Gungrave” and many more. Ramayya’s Indian influenced acoustic rock band “The Beautiful Losers” (www.thebeautifullosers.net) has been featured on several MTV America TV show soundtracks as well as on TV commercials for Japan Travel Bureau, The Animal Channel and Nivea. The single “Fairweather Friend” was featured as the theme song for the Japanese hit TV series “Deep Love”.

Photos

mcsc_gypsyplaystosacredcowindia_0671mcsc_sacredcoweatsgarbageindia_1345statuedn-jhamad-cow_cowsonrange

Press

Media Contacts

Michael Ford
Detail Communications
604.506.7451
michael -{at}- detailcommunications -{dot}- com

Kelly Balon
306.652.9335 | 778.838.7306
rawtalentbc -{at}- gmail -{dot}- com
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Press Kit

Mad Cow Sacred Cow Press Kit (PDF)

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Saskatoon Star Phoenix – Amy Jo Ehman – Feb 3/09

The cow is a simple beast, at first glance, but not when you see it through the lens of filmmaker Anand Ramayya, whose documentary Mad Cow Sacred Cow examines the crisis in the cow culture in two countries.

In Canada, “mad cow disease” (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE) crippled the cattle industry when it was discovered on a farm in Alberta in 2003. The disease was created by feeding cattle remains to other cattle, causing a fatal condition that can be passed to people who eat the meat.

In India, where the cow is sacred, world demand for beef is shattering an age-old way of life, both religious and cultural, and throwing thousands of farmers off the land their ancestors cultivated for generations.

“The cow is such a simple animal but arguably one of the most important animals in human history,” says Ramayya, who lives in Saskatoon. “Ultimately, it’s about food and sustainability. It’s all connected and the cow is at the centre of it.”

Ramayya’s investigation of cow culture in India and Canada was triggered by the mad cow disease crisis, which cast doubts on one of his favourite foods: The hamburger.

“I was afraid of my food for the first time, so I started to read more about it,” he says.

He quickly came to the conclusion the disease was a symbol of a society bent on efficiency and profit to the point where, “Instead of creating more nutritious food for each other, we’ve created something that can kill us.”

In India, he found the same drive for modernization and profit was devastating traditional rural life, where the sacred cow symbolizes the symbiotic relationship between the farmer and nature: The cow provided labour, fertilizer and nutritious milk but was too valuable to slaughter for meat.

Recently, however, the government of India has supported a burgeoning beef industry that is buying up the cattle and slaughtering them for meat, mostly for sale in Arab countries.

“Essentially, they made the cow worth more dead than it was alive,” says Ramayya. “Removing the cow from the system is creating a ripple effect and a disaster in the farm crisis.”

This has had another devastating effect on rural society: An epidemic of farmer suicide.

Ramayya says a government program was established to pay families 300,000 rupees ($12,000) if the suicide is related to the farm crisis, essentially making the farmer worth more dead than alive, at least in the short term.

In Mad Cow Sacred Cow, Ramayya backs up his theory with stirring interviews with farm families and activists in India such as author and eco-activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, politician and journalist Maneka Gandhi and holy man and human rights advocate Swami Agnivesh.

The story is personal for Ramayya. His wife hails from a ranch in southern Saskatchewan that has been devastated by the cattle crisis, while his own family hails from India (he was born in Canada after his parents immigrated).

He says lessons can be learned from the cattle crisis in both countries.

“If we don’t support sustainable agricultural systems, we’re not only going to lose a safe nutritious food supply — we’re going to lose our cultures that are connected to the food that we eat and grow; we’re going to lose our environments which are affected by the way we produce our food; and we’re ultimately going to lose our own health and our children’s future on this planet because the way we produce food is destroying all those things at a rapid rate.”

Ramayya’s previous work includes the National Film Board documentary Cosmic Current and the animated series Wapos Bay, both of which won Gemini awards.

Mad Cow Sacred Cow airs on CBC Newsworld tonight at 9 p.m. and midnight. Meanwhile, another documentary produced by Ramayya airs on SCN at 8:30 pm.

It’s an episode in the series Landing, the story of “new pioneers” Peyton Leavitt and Jonathan Lee who raise organic lamb and goats near Naicam and sell their rustic breads at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

“There’s a very clear parallel between (the two),” says Ramayya.

“Jon and Peyton are a perfect modern day example of people reclaiming these methods of traditional sustainable agriculture to make good healthy food for the people in their community.”

http://www.thestarphoenix.com/Health/conundrum/1247345/story.html

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