by Caitlin Zera January 19, 2016
Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective is a documentary film permeated with a refreshing sense of serenity and possibility. Inhabit is foremost a documentary about gardening and small-scale agriculture, but it encompasses much more and tonally strikes a reflective, philosophical note that is somewhat unusual for documentaries about sustainable agriculture.
Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective
Directed by Costa Boutsikaris
Runtime: 1 hour 32 minutes, 2015
The film introduces the concept of permaculture through a handful of different projects across the United States. Permaculture is described by the filmmakers as “a design method that offers an ecological lens for solving issues related to agriculture, economics, governance, and so on.” Inhabit’s strength lies in its diversity of subjects featured – the projects range from vast wild orchards to rooftop gardens, suburban community rainscaping to urban community gardening. The people behind the projects are equally diverse and come to this work from different backgrounds and motivations.
However, the common thread is clear: all the subjects share a desire to truly inhabit the spaces in which they have chosen to live. This definition of “inhabiting” seems to be somewhat akin to the philosophical notion of “being-in-the-world” – a deep awareness of your own presence and your place within the universe. This is often read in the context of ecocentric philosophy, and the film is thus aptly named. The subjects are thematically linked through their poignant interviews and the structure and visual style of film perpetuates a sense of inhabitance. The portraits of each permaculture project seem less like vignettes and more like one narrative, with each scene flowing seamlessly into the next. Each portrait is an extension of a much larger project: the project of restoring sense of place. The film’s deep focus cinematography and effortless, gliding shots create a stirring poetic effect. The filmmakers achieve the perfect balance of peacefulness, earthiness, and ethereality through these cinematic techniques, the film’s soundscape, and their artistic veneration of the subject matter.
Inhabit doesn’t hide the fact that farming in any capacity is difficult work, physically and otherwise, but it celebrates this work and shows the many rewards of cultivating a purposeful life through sustainable practices. The film welcomes several audiences – those who are seeking information and inspiration about permaculture, those who want to learn more about sustainable agriculture, and those who are simply curious about the possibilities of living more eco-harmoniously.
The filmmakers of Inhabit, who financed the film through a crowdfunding campaign, have kept the project community focused by developing a robust online resource in addition to the full-length film. Their website hosts over 20 additional short films, each showcasing a different permaculture project not featured in the final documentary.
Inhabit is a sophisticated documentary about ingenuity and harmony that is also practical about the challenges facing our society. It’s a revitalizing film about community-level solutions, but it also manages to inject a much needed sense of wonder and awe back into our relationship with the environment, which, we are reminded, is ultimately one of celebration, fragility, and reliance.
Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective was featured at an outdoor screening event in Fall 2015 at Ritz Park, South Grand, St. Louis, as part of a movie night co-sponsored by MCE, the South Grand Business District, and St. Louis Earth Day, made possible by the William A. Kerr Foundation.