Food Flicks

We spent Saturday in the darkened confines of Innis Town Hall, a theatre on the U of T campus, watching films from the Planet in Focus film fest. It was a very foodie day with very foodie films.

The morning started off with the organic pancake breakfast prepared by Real Food for Real Kids. For $10 you got two hemp pancakes with organic maple syrup, organic green salad with organic brie, fresh fruit, breads made from the ovens at Dufferin Grove Park, plus a selection of organic jams and hemp spreads. And of course organic fair trade coffee and Happy Planet juice. The price included a free travel coffee mug, and the juices retail for $1.99 each, so it was not only delicious, but a really good deal.

A Fallen Maple
The first film was called A Fallen Maple and looked at one family’s issue with lead content in the maple syrup produced on their farm. Turns out, while the maple syrup industry is highly regulated in Quebec and Vermont, in Ontario, this is not the case, and small family producers using older equipment often have problems with lead in their syrup. The only solution is to replace the entire production system, which, for this family, would have cost in excess of $100,000. The kicker is that the woman running the farm, one of the few women maple syrup producers in Ontario, had voluntarily agree to test the province’s “Best Practices” system, only to discover that they actually caused higher levels of lead in her syrup than she would have had otherwise. The maple syrup production, which had been in the family for generations, had to be shut down because they couldn’t afford to upgrade the equipment.

Ripe For Change
Film number two was a look at agricultural practices in California, from the factory farms destroying the land to the revolution spearheaded by farmers and restaurateurs such as David Masumoto and Alice Waters. Touching on issues such as migrant workers rights and patent issues, as well as the fight against companies like Monsanto when their product contaminates non-GMO crops, this was a really interesting look at the food revolution, particularly now as organics are set to become huge as chains like Wal-Mart open up the market.

Trashin’ the Big Apple
This was a small, low-budget film exploring the garbage created by the city of New York and what happens to it on its journey from plate to landfill and the problems that occur when we dump so much compostable material in landfills. There is a “how to” section on creating a indoor worm-composting bin, but from the perspective of someone who did worm composting and found it fraught with problems, it’s not really very informative. Definitely an impetus for all big cities to look at city-wide composting solutions, however, particularly for apartment buildings.

Buffet: All You Can Eat Las Vegas
Who among us, upon visiting Las Vegas, hasn’t stood in awe at the sheer quantity of food on the typical casino buffet? From the factory-style processing of food as it arrives at the casino kitchens to the attitudes of the diners (take some of everything and throw away what you don’t like!) to the end destination for the tonnes of garbage created by the excess and waste (a pig farm where the pigs are fed a slop of ground-up scraps which undoubtedly includes other pork products – what’s the porcine version of BSE??), this film tracks your typical buffet meal from beginning to end. Having been to a Vegas buffet, this film scared me the most out of everything I saw on Saturday, because it showed the raw human greed and gluttony close up – people took three, even four plates piled with food, and either ate it all, which was scary and terribly disgusting, or threw most of it away, which was just sad. In fact, Buffet seems to say more about the sociological issues inherent in our society than it did about the food itself, particularly about how we as a society don’t even think about the waste that our vices create.

Grow Your Resistance
My least favourite of the six food flicks, mostly because of the style as opposed to the content. Following three Swedish “freegan” feminist dumpster divers as they search supermarket dumpsters for edible food, the film delves more into the political issues of food waste. The girls also grow a lot of their own food, but the focus of the film is on what they find in the dumpsters. Technically, it’s dark and grainy (most dumpster diving is done at night) and the translation is a bit hard to follow in places.

A Hell of Fishing
Stop eating fish! Filmmaker Vincent Bruno discovers that after northern countries have stripped their own waters close to bare of edible fish and shellfish over the past few decades, we are now doing the same to southern waters. Free trade agreements hurt the southern countries even more, and in countries like Senegal, trawlers from the north have removed all but the smallest of fishes from the shores, forcing the Senegalese to replace the fish used in their national dish with an inferior product – any that exists gets shipped to Europe!