Friday, September 10, 2010

Farmer suicides: Dirty White Gold vs Peepli Live

How do your cotton underpants "get from grain to groin"? Filmmaker Leah Borromeo will reveal the unhappy truth in her upcoming documentary Dirty White Gold, which shows how the pursuit of fashion drives India's cotton farmers to suicide.

So far, only tantalising snippets of the film due out next year have been made available, but it already looks set to offer a grittier, more realistic picture of farmer suicides than the much-hyped Bollywood film Peepli Live (releasing on Sept 24 in the UK).

It's a little unfair to compare a feature film designed for entertainment to a hard-hitting documentary, but Peepli Live probably owed it to India's farming population to really explore the truth behind farmer suicides.

Tehelka, an Indian weekly news magazine, recently screened Peepli Live for farmers and their families in Vidarbha, the so-called suicide belt of India, where over 7000 farmers have killed themselves since 2004. None of the villagers shown the film thought that it even came close to representing their reality. When farmers die in reality, said the rural audience, their families might not get any money at all, and unlike the film, there is zero political interest. In the meantime, desperate, debt-ridden farmers continue to take their own lives in North India.

Borromeo's film tries to unpick each part of the cotton-growing process to show us how high prices of pesticides and low yields can lead many farmers into a spiral of debt from which they can't escape. In one particularly moving interview, she speaks to a young farmer who tried to commit suicide, but survived. Check out this taster of Dirty White Gold.


  1. Hi Priya - It's Leah.
    I've just spat my lunch out all over my desk reading your post. Bollywood suicides???
    I must see it.
    Thanks for your post about my film.
    We're launching a crowdfunding drive to finish it and have also recut a new trailer. Check it out here.

    Should you fancy any more info, please do get in touch.

  2. Hi Leah - thanks for getting in touch and for the link to the new trailer. I'd like to review the film when it's out for a science mag or website if I can, so do keep me posted and good luck. Do get in touch if you're ever in Mumbai.

  3. Great post Priya and Leah, I'm really looking forward to seeing the film. Keep me posted please.


  4. Thanks Shaista, will do for sure.


  5. Good promo, definitely want to watch it... please keep me posted Leah... take care

  6. Thanks for the Informasiana
    verywell and thank you.....
    Good article you have here.