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Encinitas filmmaker’s ‘Island Earth’ plants seeds for change

Promotional photo from ‘Island Earth.’ The film focuses on Hawaii as a ‘case study for the GMO controversy,’ says filmmaker Cyrus Sutton.
Promotional photo from ‘Island Earth.’ The film focuses on Hawaii as a ‘case study for the GMO controversy,’ says filmmaker Cyrus Sutton.
( / Courtesy photo)

Encinitas’ Cyrus Sutton has worn many hats over the years. As a professional surfer, he’s had a long, renowned career shredding the world’s waves, and earning sponsorships from companies such as Reef and Leatherman. As a writer, he’s written for publications such as the New York Times and Surfer Magazine. As an advocate, he has shone the spotlight on topics as varied as commercialism and the environment.

And as a filmmaker, he’s produced thought-provoking documentaries. Sutton’s latest project combines a variety of his expertise into one package: He’s the mastermind behind a brand-new, still in-the-works documentary called “Island Earth,” which focuses on the controversial issue of GMOs — genetically modified organisms.

“The film deals with Hawaii as the case study for the GMO controversy,” Sutton explained. “It’s about a younger group of people who are moving back to the land and farming in response to a broken and corrupt food system.”

The documentary is meant to spur discussion, and perhaps even change, regarding the growing issue of GMOs, which have increasingly become ubiquitous in the big business of American food and farming.

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Cyrus Sutton
Cyrus Sutton
( / Billy Watts)

“This is an issue that has everybody from legislators to doctors, and laywers to farmers talking about where our food comes from,” Sutton said. “The film doesn’t take sides on the use of technology. It’s more about coming up with solutions to the problem. Everyone on each side of the issue agrees we need to have a more local and diversified agriculture. The documentary looks at young people who are tired of complaining about things and start living the solutions they want to see.”

A resident of Encinitas for the past 10 years (which is where he first learned about sustainable farming), Sutton chose to focus the documentary in Hawaii for a variety of reasons.

“As a filmmaker, I’ve been looking for a case study or issue that addresses the need and benefits of returning to this small scale, diversified agriculture,” Sutton explained. “It turns out that Hawaii is the largest most geographically isolated landmass in the world.”

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According to Sutton, “Island Earth” is mostly finished. All that needs to be done is post-production work, which is where a newly launched Kickstarter plan comes into play. (Sutton hopes to raise $32,000.)

“I have alliances with people and organizations that are going to help me get this film out there and pay for distribution,” Sutton said. “The Kickstarter is mostly to hire an editor.”

For Sutton, the hard work that has gone into the making of “Island Earth” will become worth it if the film spurs the stated goals of discussion and change.

“GMOs are a technology, like nuclear power,” he said. “It’s what’s being done with it, the fact it’s being developed so that plants will grow in concert with more toxic pesticides — that’s the issue. Anyone that tries to say that large-scale farming isn’t destroying our soil is misguided. This is an industry that cares about profits for shareholders, and not preserving the environment.

“Of all the causes to get behind and all of the problems facing us, our food system is perhaps the largest problem our world is facing today.”

To learn more about “Island Earth,” visit Sutton’s Kickstarter page.


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