Fulbright recipient will dig dirt in documentary about soil pollution in Moldova

Fulbright recipient Avital Brodski poses for a portrait. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

During the reign of the former Soviet Union, Moldova was the agricultural hub of the federation. The country yielded crops under policies that pushed for production at any cost, but even three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fertile soils of Moldova are still paying the price for over-farming, says Avital Brodski, who will travel to the country in September to film a documentary about soil pollution as part of the U.S. Fulbright Student Program

“About 70% of the country was used for agriculture during the Soviet Union, but today only about 30% of the land is arable,” says Brodski, who will graduate from Northeastern in May with a degree in environmental science and media and screen studies. 

Brodski, who grew up speaking Russian at home with her parents, will spend nine months traveling around the country filming and interviewing government officials and civilians about the consequences of unsustainable Soviet farming policies. The grant she received from the Fulbright program will cover living and travel expenses to and from Moldova.

“After the Soviet Union disbanded, Moldova received very little help from anyone else. They didn’t get any support from the EU or NATO,” Brodski explains. “But the growth in their GDP is better than the U.S.’s in terms of steady improvement over the years, so I want to investigate what’s causing this growth even as less and less of the land is able to be farmed.” 

The production of wine is a major part of Moldova’s economy, Brodski says, and she hopes to capture in her film the crossover of agriculture, economics, and national identity as it pertains to wine.  

Brodski says she’s interested in the longstanding effects that government policies have on the environment in Moldova and beyond. “The decisions we make today will have repercussions far into the future,” she says. “I want to look at how policies implemented by large, powerful countries shape the environment.”  

Brodski has experience making documentaries as part of her undergraduate education at Northeastern. She is currently working on her capstone project, which is a documentary about dinosaur footprints in New England and elsewhere across the United States. 

Her interest in paleontology was sparked during the Age of Dinosaurs class she took with professor of marine and environmental sciences, Richard Bailey. Brodski has interviewed archaeologists and filmed at dinosaur track sites in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Colorado and Utah for the forthcoming documentary, which she hopes to submit to film festivals once it’s finished. 

Brodski also made another documentary at Northeastern with the help of Michelle Carr, who is a senior lecturer in the College of Arts, Media and Design. During a Dialogue of Civilizations in the United Kingdom, Brodski and eight other classmates made a documentary about youth activists who are leading the charge in Britain’s environmental movement. 

Brodski believes she was selected for this award because of the relevancy of her proposal topic, and because of the extensive background she has in documentary filmmaking. “These days, we think that human innovation means progress, but sometimes we forget that all of these decisions have a lasting impact on the land,” she says. 

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