At the Movies: Five Food Flicks to See Now

HFM2poster2_23[1]When Cathy Erway (the author of the brand-new book, The Art of Eating In: How I learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove), Jimmy Carbone (of Jimmy’s No. 43), and Shelly Rogers (the director of What’s Organic About Organic?) teamed up to draw awareness to food issues through film, they chose to curate an ongoing series that would focus on snippets of works in progress followed by a talkback with the talent.

Last week six Hungry Filmmakers took to the screen at Anthology Film Archives in the East Village for a second round of sneak peeks at indie flicks that aim to tell the stories of the American food system. Think of the nights, if you will, as a cinematic call to culinary action.

The evening started with special guest Daniel Bowman Simon, who talked of the petition he’s circulating urging Mayor Bloomberg to grow a garden on the lawn of City Hall.  Naturally his paper and clipboards have a video component, a clip that shows enthusiastic school kids in the Bronx urging city officials to give them a garden for their tomatoes.  (Show your support here.)

There was also The End of the Line, a documentary about overfishing that premiered at Sundance in 2009, and focuses viewers’ attention on the importance of making sustainable choices at the seafood market as well as in restaurants.  (Take note of the bluefin tuna on Nobu’s menu with an asterisk—the menu actually says the fish is an endangered species, though it’s still on offer for fine diners.)

What’s on Your Plate follows two New York City school girls as they try to trace where the food in their local bodega actually comes from.  Kerry Trueman, the green voice of the Huffington Post and a prolific good food blogger for Eating Liberally, aptly dubbed it “Michael Pollan for the Pee-wee set.”

Fly on the Wall documents shop owners’ reactions to a poster that boasts a heaping plate of fresh food and the slogan “Feed your family right! Healthy can be affordable!” Shot on two days, two weeks apart, the flick captures the immediate realities of bodega business as well as the change that hanging a simple poster in a store window can bring about.  A clip from Anna Joanes’s feature, Fresh, takes us to the circular sustainable model practiced on Joel Salatin’s farm.

“Part of our responsibility as stewards of the earth is to respect the design of nature,” he tells the camera. “You’re not afraid of a bunch of T-bone steaks, are ya?” Salatin asks as he lets the cattle out to pasture.  The clip follows him through a day on the farm, as he lets the hens out of their house to wander around the cow pasture or sits down to say grace with his family over and hamburgers.

Fittingly, Fresh was followed by the final selection of the evening, Nancy Good’s The Mad Cow Investigator, in which a New Jersey accountant turned citizen journalist uncovers 27 mad cow disease deaths linked to meat served at the local racetrack.

The majority of these documentaries have yet to get the air time they deserve in mainstream theatres: They rely on indie press, grassroots organization, and events like this to get the word out.  So if you want to host a screening of these low-budget, big-story food films (like the Bushwick Food Coop did through the month of February), reach out to the filmmakers themselves via their websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds.  And be sure to invite us!

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