Monday, February 22, 2010

Top Food Films

Food-focused films have made it big over the past few years. Riveting food documentaries have taken America by storm, riding on the coattails of books and reaching a wider audience. But hiding in the shadow of feature film productions are some very exciting documentaries that explore smaller, less mainstream sides of food and agriculture today.

Eric Schlosser’s primary film, Fast Food Nation, which was made several years after his book of the same title, was along with the hit Supersize Me foundational in beginning the food dialogue through film. These films both appeared on the big screen in the earlier 2000s and were really effective in stripping the fast food industry bare, and revealing the myriad of health and agricultural detriments brought about by fast food.

King Corn, put together by two recent college graduates who attempt to grow an acre of America’s most popular and most tragic crop, extends the story presented in Supersize me and Fast Food Nation, exploring fast and processed food through its main ingredient: corn. This revelation was first really presented to the national audience in Michael Pollan’s infamous book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but becomes somewhat more poignant when put to the test in front of the camera.

The latest, and perhaps the film that has made the biggest splash thus far, Food Inc., combines the forces of food prophets Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser as they expose the realities of our food system. This is a must-see for everyone, but packaged in a way that appeals to the popular audience. If you’ve already been reading and learning about sustainable food, then you’ve probably heard a lot of what is presented in Food Inc., but it’s a great introduction to the basic problems that exist within our food system for those who are not yet aware of the situation.

Chances are you’ve heard of or seen some of these films, but there are numerous and insightful films that examine smaller sections and stories about food and farming. The one that I am most excited to see is The Greenhorns, a documentary featuring new sustainable farmers all over the U.S. who are swept up in the revival of farming and producing real food. The film is presented by a small non-profit of the same name and aims to promote and inspire young famers.

Focusing on a vibrant urban farming community, The Garden delves in to the story of the South Central Farmers in Los Angeles and their fight to protect the fourteen-acre garden that is the lifeblood of their community. Although the documentary was appropriately nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary, it hasn’t been nationally distributed.

More and more Web documentaries about food are cropping up. They are usually low budget but very much on the pulse of real, grassroots issues in sustainable food and agriculture. The best one I’ve seen lately is Fair Food: From Farm to Table. The film is a short, 3-part dissection of the development of fair and sustainable agriculture. The filmmaker, who is also the head of the California Institute for Rural Studies, presents the story from the perspectives of the farm workers, farmers, and the advocates, which adds up to a well rounded story.

As the silver screen hits have demonstrated, film has become a really effective way to expose and explore food and agricultural systems. Keep your eyes peeled for screenings and new documentaries!

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