Directed by Meredith Dreiss David Brown.
Agave is Life is a documentary film about mankind’s 10,000 year-long symbiotic alliance with the marvelous agave plant, from which tequila, Mexico’s iconic distilled spirit, is derived. The documentary takes viewers back to a time when hunter-gatherers relied on the agave plant as a source of food, drink, shelter and fiber while roaming desert regions of Mexico and the American Southwest. With the advent of early agriculture, and later, the development of more complex civilizations, agave played a role in the longevity, success, and ritual life of ancient cultures in these regions. Only recently have archaeologists realized how important the agave plant was to pre-Columbian people living in what may seem like marginal environments. It is through their investigations that the story unfolds, starting with feasting rituals and practices among hunter-gatherers and early agave farmers, and ending with current day environmental concerns. Along the way we learn how this unique desert plant, and its products, once integral to human survival, community gatherings, and religious rites, has become embedded in identity, mythology, art, and cultural traditions. After the Spanish Conquest, the once sacred agave was transformed into an economic commodity with meteoric increases in fiber, pulque, and distilled spirit production. In recent decades, however, competition with beer has all but eliminated Mexico’s once flourishing pulque market while synthetics have severely curtailed the agave fiber industry. Tequila and mezcal producers, the survivors of agave’s early commercial success in Mexico, are threatened today by climate change, water scarcity, and the lack of biological diversity in their fields. While biologists and producers struggle to reverse this negative trend, the multi-purpose agave plant rides through another transition for 21st century consumers. Hope for the plant’s future may one day rely upon more traditional agricultural methods and, as in the past, the use of its many products --- from fuel to musical instruments.Central America Archaeobotany / Ethnobotany Food History