Boots on the Ground, Hands in the Soil

Karolina Uskakovych’s documentary film centres around the remarkable spiritual bond shared by the filmmaker and her charismatic grandmother, Zoya, a proud Ukrainian pensioner who cherishes her non-capitalistic peasant lifestyle. In the winter of 2021, Zoya presented Karolina with a package of her harvested tomato seeds. The next gardening season, however, coincided with the devastating invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Undeterred by the dire circumstances, Zoya and Karolina embarked on a unique journey of tending their gardens together online. They nurtured their plants and engaged in important conversations, shedding light on the significance of this age-old practice during times of war. Boots on the Ground, Hands in the Soil weaves together themes relating to the human-nature bond and the profound impact of gardening during turbulent times. The documentary implores viewers to reflect on the intrinsic connection between humans and the natural world, emphasising the therapeutic and empowering qualities that can be found in cultivating the land. The film is screened as an immersive installation – a small cinema/gardening shed. Inside, the shed is adorned with tomato plants, enveloping the audience in the scent of tomato vines. This multisensory experience allows spectators to intimately connect with the film, fostering a deeper understanding of the profound themes explored. The documentary illuminates the unbreakable bond between generations, the resilience of the human spirit and the indomitable power of nature. Through the lens of the grandmother-granddaughter relationship, the film offers a sincere exploration of the role of gardening during times of war and the complexities of food systems. It serves as a reminder of the enduring strength found in the simplicity of tending to the land, even in the face of adversity.