Wednesday, April 7, 2010

FRESH: new food documentary premieres -- with some positive ideas

Not just the shortest of the recent food films, but in some ways the most enjoy-
able, FRESH, a film by ana Sophia joanes (yes, the upper and lower case are deliberate on the film-
maker's part, though I haven't a clue as to why), offers some smart, practical ideas about good, healthy food -- where to get it and how to grow it. Unlike Food Inc.Food Beware, King Korn and a number of other food and farming documentaries, this one spends more time on the positive than the negative -- on what we can do to get the good food we need, rather than why big agri-business and government are colluding against us.  There's some of this in this film, but much more that is active/positive.  Perhaps Ms Joanes (shown below) figures we already know much of the negative scenario; in my case, and maybe yours, she'd be right.

Instead, we get smart looks at specific problems from people like Michael Pollan and some small organic farmers, as he and they explain clearly and succinctly the current trouble and then show us what can be done to right the wrongs: specifically getting away from the monoculture of agribusiness-grown corn, soy and rice -- as well as all the mass-produced, unhealthy meat and poultry we eat.  Capitalism is a word not spoken here, though when one speaker notes that it is time to shift to a different "paradigm," I think we know what he means.

Instead of feeding dead cows to live animals, one of our farmers grazes his herd; another tells of going from small farming to the large model and discovering within two years an array of diseases of which his animals had become victims. The charismatic Will Allen (below), a former basketball star in Europe who later worked for KFC and P&G, is now the director of Growing Power, and we spend some time with him as he demonstrates what makes for good soil (worms!) and offers other advice on organic farming.

In the course of Fresh, Mr. Pollan tells us that four huge companies -- soon to be only three --control our entire industrial food production, from seed to plate.  One of these is ADM, profiled so very delightfully in Steven Soderbergh's recent The Informant!, another is Cargill.  Yet we learn here that medium-size organic farming can be far more productive, long-term (not to mention healthy), than any size industrial version.  This, of course, must be implemented by government -- and that's Socialism, ain't it?  Whatever, let's go for it.

At the very beginning of this film, a Pakistani man notes that Americans fear only one thing: inconvenience.  Too true.  But isn't inconveni-
ence preferable to slow destruction?

See Fresh, and then toast to good eating by joining a locally-grown food co-op -- or maybe starting one.  The movie has its premier tonight at the Tribeca Cinemas and then opens Friday April 9, for its theatrical run at the NYC's Quad Cinema.  You can check all playdates and screenings nationwide here.

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