“[Jonathan] Demme does something special in his mini-doc…he shows us who Hayes is, independent of the Syngenta scandal. What it adds up to is a story that’s not just about Hayes the whistleblower, but also the challenges faced by African Americans coping with the insecurity of racial isolation in the ivory tower, the science lab, and that democratic laboratory called America.”(Brentin Mock, Grist.org)
What’s Motivating Hayes? is a powerful documentary portrait of one man who dared to stand up to big business. Born in South Carolina, UC Berkeley biologist Tyrone Hayes grew up collecting reptiles and amphibians in the swamps near his family’s home. His childhood curiosity led him to Harvard, where he finished at the top of his class, eventually becoming a well-regarded authority on the endocrine systems of frogs. In 1998, Syngenta (an agribusiness that produces agrochemicals and seeds) turned to Hayes to study the effects of its herbicide atrazine on frogs. But when his research found that the herbicide (used in products like Round Up) causes major reproductive defects in frogs, it set in motion a David & Goliath-like battle with Syngenta set on destroying his credibility. Originally produced as a 15 minute segment of The New Yorker Presents documentary series for Amazon, What’s Motivating Hayes? will be presented here in an expanded cut that offers a fuller look at a man who has spent his entire life defying expectations and challenging societal norms.