Friday, May 8, 2009
Food Movies at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)
Go on, if you live in Seattle, go git your tickets early.
USA, 2008, 94 min.
4:15 p.m. May 30, Egyptian
7 p.m. May 31, Egyptian
You are what you eat, the saying goes. But do you really KNOW what you eat? Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the curtain on the unsavory practices of our nation’s food industry. The film illustrates how the corporate purveyors of food products have literally gotten away with murder—and all with the complicity of our government’s regulatory agencies. As Kenner shows in detail, the food supply in the United States is controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit before health—not only of the consumers of their processed foodstuffs, but the economic health of farmers and food workers, and the health of the environment. Drawing on the works of authors Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation”) and Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”), Kenner’s film details the cozy relationship between agribusiness and government—a relationship that allows the corporate behemoth Monsanto to monopolize soybean production and litigate aggressively against small farmers who harvest their own seeds rather than buy Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds. Food, Inc. paints a vivid picture of the wages of unsustainable food production—obesity, diabetes, and E. COLI poisoning. But for all its outrage, Food, Inc. posits a hopeful (and delicious) future, highlighting a burgeoning organic farming movement that has made it all the way to the White House lawn.
What’s On Your Plate?
USA, 2009, 73 min.
4 p.m. June 12, Pacific Place
11 a.m. June 13, Pacific Place
This provocative and entertaining documentary follows two 11-year-old African-American kids as they explore the politics of food in America. Director Catherine Gund (whose daughter Sadie is one of the exploratory duo) knows how important it is to inform the younger generation and understand the way food gets to the family table. With the audience as their companion, the girls talk with each other, farmers, food activists, and their families to learn what ends up on our plates and how it gets there, from cultivation to market. There are revelatory visits to grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and especially the school lunchroom, where they become involved in encouraging their school district to improve their mystery meat in favor of healthier alternatives. In addition to these traditional venues, the girls examine sustainable food systems through farms and community-supported agriculture programs. They quickly discover social awareness has a multitude of positive effects: the environment, jobs for farmers, and affordable local food. With tremendous sophistication and compassion, these culinary enthusiasts inspire hope and active engagement from all members of the family, laying the groundwork for a future of healthy habits and tasty flavors. Recommended for all ages.
France, 2008, 88 min.
11 a.m. May 23, Uptown
7 p.m. June 2, Harvard Exit
As small family farming disappears from the French countryside, the people who have worked the land for generations refuse to give up and let their livelihoods crumble around them. Director Raymond Depardon travels between families and farms, feeling the pressure of the changing times as families attempt to cope with the devastating loss of their lifestyles. Over the course of ten years, Depardon returns to each family to catch up on their stories, allowing the passage of time to play a major role in the film. We meet octogenarian brothers who struggle with the daily task of maintaining their farm despite their age and the evolution of their trade. Depardon takes on the role of filmmaker, interviewer, and narrator, coaxing the traditionally reserved farmers to open up about their lives and feelings of despair over the decline of their industry. Visually astute, Depardon imparts his sincere affection and respect for his subjects through sprawling shots of the countryside’s natural beauty as well as striking images that divulge the naked truth of the situation.
USA, 2008, 80 min.
7 p.m. May 28, Pacific Place
11 a.m. May 30, Pacific Place
Constructed just after the devastating 1992 riots in South Central Los Angeles, a 14-acre community garden was built on a former dumping ground at 41st and Alameda Streets. What started as a step in the post-riot healing process soon became the largest urban farm in the United States. This community miracle brought together families and neighbors as they grew their own food and nourished their families, creating a shining light in one of the country’s most blighted neighborhoods. However, only a few years after achieving success and sustainability, the garden’s existence was threatened by a developer’s plans to construct warehouses on the site. In a follow-up to his well-regarded debut documentary, OT: Our Town, director and producer Scott Hamilton Kennedy follows the garden’s mostly Latino farmers over a period of four years as they organize and fight back to save their hallowed patch of ground. The Garden is an emotional and demanding documentary that takes viewers through urban politics, racial grievances, and the lives of ordinary people willing to put up a long fight in order to keep their oasis alive. Featuring Danny Glover, Daryl Hannah, Antonio Villaraigosa, Dennis Kucinich, Joan Baez.
Thanks to Mary Embleton of Cascade Harvest Coalition for bringing these movies to my attention. Movie synopses from SIFF's website.