Up in Smoke

One Man’s Burning Issue

Directed by Adam Wakeling

This is a film about a technique that could save more carbon emissions annually than all global aviation combined. It is a film about one of the biggest contributors to tropical deforestation and global warming: slash and burn agriculture. It sits at the crossroads of two of the greatest threats to global stability: accelerating climate change and diminishing food security. The film follows British scientist Mike Hands, who has laboured for 25 years to perfect a sustainable farming technique to replace slash and burn farming in equatorial rainforests.

And he’s found it.

But developing the technique was only the start. Now he needs to persuade governments, agencies and, more importantly than anyone else, the farmers to all adopt it.

This is a film about a struggle for our future. About the heroic, sometimes quixotic, mission of Mike Hands to get people to understand his revolutionary method. It’s about the life and death struggle of impoverished farmers who can’t afford to risk adopting a new farming method. It’s a film about our driving need to change what’s happening to the planet’s rainforests, and about the pressures that may prevent that change from happening.

Mike Hands has the solution, but is the world ready to listen?

We follow three principal characters: Mike Hands, and two Honduran farmers, Faustino and Aladino. One has adopted and embraced Mike’s technique, the other is waiting to be convinced and drive the change forward. Filmed over 4 years in Honduras and the UK, the film presents a historic opportunity
to address one of the most urgent issues of the present day. It parallels the farmer’s struggles with Mike Hands attempts to get heavyweight political backing, as he tries to get his technique onto the agenda at the 2009 Copenhagen Summit. But politics has its own way of interfering with the science.


“Worthy environmental documentaries can be a slog, but Up in Smoke is delightful. Hands is undemonstrative but fascinating in his utter determination” New Scientist

“There was something inspiring about Hands. Laidback and philosophical, he’s not giving up the fight in his life’s mission”  Metro

“Alarming, thought-provoking television which deserves to win an award” Observer

“A true underdog story but one with higher stakes than the most” Time Out UK


Winner, Prix D’Argent (special UNDP award) Millenium International Film Festival 2012
Winner, Silver Prize, Green Economy section, Deauville Green Film Festival 2012
Winner, Paris Science International Film Festival 2011