In 1908, the first agricultural experiment station was built on the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi to test the various pesticides and other chemicals used to expand its largest economy at the time: the sugar and pineapple industry. There was little oversight into the safety of the chemicals to the environment or for the workers employed to distribute them on the crops, and many of the chemicals used in this era are still present in soil samples. Today, the world’s largest biotech companies (Monsanto, DowDupont, Syngenta) are continuing to use Hawaiʻi as an open-air testing facility, using these same lethal chemicals that severely impact the environment and health of residents.

The Experiment Station uses unique first-hand accounts and archival research to look at the island of Kaua’i specifically and how its legacy of colonialism and extractive capitalism has emboldened these biotech companies to continue to function with impunity.

The Experiment Station

by Anthony Banua-Simon

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My in-progress documentary, The Experiment Station, is a companion to my recent feature, Cane FireCane Fire examined the past and present of the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi, interweaving four generations of family history, numerous Hollywood productions, and troves of found footage to create a kaleidoscopic portrait of the economic and cultural forces that have cast indigenous and working-class residents as “extras” in their own story.

The Experiment Station is an expansion of Cane Fire’s themes of land control and labor on Kauaʻi but with a particular focus on the progression of the biotech industry over the years. Like Cane Fire, the focus will be on people directly impacted rather than experts or spokespeople speaking broadly on a topic. My extended family all live on the South and Westside of Kauaʻi where the environment is directly contaminated and several of my cousins have been employed by the various biotech companies.

The filming for this project began in 2014 and continued into 2018 simultaneously with the production of Cane Fire and currently exists as a 45 minute rough cut. I’ve recently received a NYSCA grant to continue filming as well as researching the on-site archives in late February 2022. The goal is to complete the project by Fall of 2022.

Website: https://anthonysimon.net/The-Experiment-Station

 


 

Anthony Banua-Simon is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and editor named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 2021 “25 New Faces of Independent Film”. His debut feature documentary, Cane Fire, was an official selection of the 2020 Hot Docs International Film Festival as well as the 2021 MoMA Doc Fortnight and won “Best Documentary Feature” at the 2020 Indie Memphis Film Festival and the 2021 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. His films have also screened at venues such as the Brooklyn Museum and MoMA PS1, as well as featured on The Criterion Channel, MUBI, Jacobin, Pioneer Work’s “The Broadcast”, and HuffPost.

Anthony attended The Evergreen State College and was a fellow at the UnionDocs Collaborative Studio Program. He’s currently a member of the volunteer-run Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn, NY.