Films for food: A new movement in moving pictures


Image detail from the poster for the film “Food Fight”

We love our food. Especially when it’s larger than life (dare I say, “Supersized?“). Some of our (ok, my) favorite films include such delectable delights as “Babette’s Feast,” “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman” and “Chocolat.” And of course, foodies everywhere are now extolling the virtues of “Julie & Julia.”

But there’s a new trend emerging in food films, and it has less to do with a beautiful plate than it does with land rights, the environment, and battling obesity. Tomorrow night and the following Wednesday night, Gardening Matters and Midtown Farmers’ Market are cohosting a two-part movie series at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis. The Midtown Farmer’s Market website explains the impetus for the event:

Our current food system has had an impact on more than just our personal health. Environmental pollution, sharply attenuated bio-diversity, the ruination of rural economies, and the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of a few are all consequences of the way our food system has been reshaped in order to deliver the cheap and abundant calories upon which Americans have come to rely.

Against the tide, there has been a burgeoning movement to reclaim control over our food supply. Central to that movement have been friends, neighbors, and whole communities that have invested in commonly shared spaces to grow vegetable gardens, create opportunities for urban agricultural enterprise, and establish community farmers markets. In short, many Americans are now looking for innovative models to stimulate the growth of small-scale agriculture while coloring in some of the nation’s food deserts with fresher, healthier food.

Tomorrow night the film series begins with “The Garden,” in which a group of community gardeners in south central Los Angeles fight to keep the 14 acre piece of land on which they farm.

Next Wednesday the series concludes with “Food Fight,” a look at the agricultural industry’s methods of providing food at a profit, and how that affects the quality of what Americans are eating.

In addition to the two films in the series, there’s also Food, Inc which is already showing at the Riverview. For those people who still haven’t had enough of Michael Pollan, this fall the film “Nourish” is expected to get an airing on PBS.

By the way, MPR’s Euan Kerr is the local expert on all things cinema, and has some related stories worth checking out. He reported on the recent screening of the movie “Fresh,” a movie about the threat industrialized food production poses to food safety and community health. And he interviewed one of the movie’s stars, Will Allen, when he came to town. In addition, Kerr has also taken a look at the hard-to-watch documentary “The Cove” which captures an annual dolphin slaughter in Japan (done primarily for the meat) on tragic detail.

Seeing all this promotion for activist films makes me wonder – how affective are movies in changing people’s minds? How likely is it that the people the film producers want to reach – need to reach in order to fulfill their agenda – will actually buy a ticket? And if film is not the right medium for the message, what is?

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