For ten years in Puglia Bactria, Xylella fastidiosa, killing millions of olive trees, a vegetative disaster that today is almost in danger of being forgotten, but which upends the landscape, the economy and human relations. The massacre of olive trees, which cover 60 percent of the Salento region, has not spared centuries-old trees (some as old as 2,000 years), in symbiosis with humans since the dawn of time.
To remind us of this and to assess the situation, the documentary was released The time of giants, which tells of Giuseppe’s journey to his father’s land, in the plain of huge olive trees, where the arrival of a pestilence is imminent. Giuseppe will have to explain to the elderly farmer how their lives will be turned upside down by this invisible bacterium, hitherto unknown in Italy and slowly spreading in Europe.
In the film we see how what was once an endless forest of olive trees turns into “a space of logs stretching towards the sky for an unanswerable prayer”, plants sometimes hundreds or even thousands of years old, weathered by vicissitudes of all kinds. He had to succumb to a tiny bacterium that had come from afar and dried it out. And with them the sound of birds disappears, of cicadas.
When the disaster begins to appear, and the responsible bacteria and its vector, an insect, the “spittool” can be identified, an attempt will be made to isolate and cut down the affected trees, to create a kind of vegetative spacing that allows slowing the spread of infection. But the first attempts to carry out this measure caused a real uprising of the population who felt battered, even more economically, in their cultural roots, rooted in the cultivation of the olive tree which in these places is as ancient and deep as the olive. Tree millennials. All of this, due to widespread distrust of science, means that a lot of time has been lost, and xylella I managed to spread more and more.
Science is now trying to isolate and create varieties that are more resistant to bacteria and that can allow coexistence with this devastating pest, without forgetting that climate change, the risk of desertification and the possibility of the arrival of other alien parasites will in any case lead to a comprehensive rethinking of all areas of agriculture and landscape.
Freely inspired by Stefano Martella’s book The death of giants. Xylella and the Millennium Olive Tree Massacre (Meltemi, 2022), the film – directed by Davide Barletti and Lorenzo Conte – leaves room for the opinions, suggestions and scholarly stories of those who, on the front lines, are trying to offer a vision of the future of a region destroyed most of them. Dangerous epidemiological botany of the century. Among the contributions. There are those of Riccardo Valentini (environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2007), Marco Cattaneo (Editor in Chief From “National Geographic”, “Le Scienze” and “Mind”) by writer Daniele Rielli, journalist Stefano Liberti (“Internationale”) and science publisher Alessandra Viola.
The olive tree crisis
Watching the film is intended to contribute to the knowledge of our lands, but it is also an opportunity to support those working concretely to fight a scourge xylella: For every ticket sold in the room, 1 euro will be donated to Save the Olives, a non-profit organization committed to the protection of huge olive trees and the search for new productive and resistant olive varieties xylella.
The film hits theaters on March 16 in Bari and Lecce, and will be shown on the following dates and cities:
March 21 in Rome: Troisi Cinema
March 22nd at Melzo: Cinema Arcadia
March 23 in Milan: Cinema Anteo City Life
March 24 in Bologna: Cinema Teatro Galliera
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