Monday, May 25, 2009

Food on Film

When we think about movies on food, we think of romantic comedies such as “Bella Martha/No reservations” or of documentaries like “Supersize me”.

As the second edition of the Slow Food Film Festival in Bologna successfully demonstrated, there is a huge number of interesting, heart warming, heart wrenching, agitating, documentaries about the state of our foodworld out there waiting to be watched and talked about!

In three days of festival alone I caught 22 documentaries and most of them were totally worth watching them. Only challenge: to remain cheerful and happy on day three. Cause all these films present the world of agriculture, farming and eating with all its dysfunctions and very little things that seem to go right.

My personal favourite was the film “Over Land” by Steve Sudermann, who follows the decline of his family’s farm in Quebec, Canada, over a period of more than two years, until the moment when they have to sell, leaving the soil they had worked for generations.

Another great film was “La Vie Moderne” not only for content, but also for the camera - the director, Raymond Depardon, is a magnum photographer and that tells. But it is another story of families that leave the soil (this time in France), cause the hilly land does not permit high density farming and hence does not bring economic return to those working there. Depardon shows a young farmer who cannot wait to run off the land and work in a nearby hotel, an old farmers who sell their last cow, cause at the age of 94 tending for a cow is a difficult thing to do, and who suffers terribly, as the cow was the farmer’s reason of being, his life. And all these stories make you wonder: is there no hope? How are we supposed to feed the world, if small scale quality farming becomes unattractive?

Not even large scale farming necessarily helps to make ends meet, cause as the story from Canada shows, you can work hard, achieve great results, even being nominated “top 8 supplier” to McCain French Fries, but the numbers do not turn nevertheless…. 2,000 farmers close their farms in Canada every year.

Last film deserving special mention: Goede Vissers (The Good Fishermen), portraying a Dutch couple dedicated to sustainable fishing. Great people that were also present at the screening to discuss, debate and taste their delicious products (see picture).

We, the consumers, need to start demanding real food from real people, hoping that market logic does apply and demand will create supply, as the initiatives of large scale retailers pushing into organic food show. Not that organic necessarily supports small artisan farming, but it is a first step as it demonstrates an increased awareness by the consumers.

In this sense, the Slow Food on Film Festival was a great event to create awareness. Cause on thing is to read about the sad state of agriculture and farming on the news – even if I experience every day myself how difficult it is to make ends meet in quality farming – and another to have numbers turn into stories and stories to have faces.

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