Monday, September 25, 2017

Andreas Johnsen's edible-insects documentary, BUGS, offers a whole new kind of food porn

Part slasher/torture porn (with insects the recipients), part food documentary, part globe-trotting travel movie, part environmentally-conscious, What-will-future-generation eat? treatise, BUGS, the new doc from Danish filmmaker Andreas Johnsen is quite something: consistently interesting; peopled with smart, thoughtful, caring characters; and often a lot of weird, expand-your-horizons fun. Recommending it to mainstream audiences, however, comes with a few caveats, beginning with the fact that entomophagy has an eeewwww! factor that is awfully high.

Mr. Johnsen, shown at right, above with his three "stars": left to right, Josh Evans, Roberto Flores and Ben Reade, manages, in just 76 minutes, to introduce us to the idea of actually eating insects and enjoying the experience via the two young gentlemen above, Josh and Ben, who seem to think of themselves as "food adventurers," courtesy of the Nordic Food Lab that sponsored their work. That work consists of traveling the world, trying various insects treats -- from Australia to Kenya, Mexico to The Netherlands and even to Italy to try some cheese filled with worms. (If I recall correctly, one of our heroes reaction to the latter is, "It tastes good. But I prefer Camembert.")

Generally, though, the gourmet palates of these two plucky fellows (and the intern, Roberto, who eventually becomes their chef) seem to greatly appreciate the various insects they try. And to their credit, not once do we hear the reaction, "It tastes like chicken!" Oh, no. In fact, one juicy delectable (I think it was ant larvae) is said by Josh to smell like goat cheese and by Ben (above) to taste like avocado." So there.

The movie begins with our chef and what we are told is a skillet filled with maggot fat (ummm!). Very soon, a group of intrepid folk are given what is referred to as "airplane food for the 22nd Century." The menu here is impressive indeed.  One of the more interesting of the team's adventures take them to Kenya, where they discover how tasty termites can be -- especially their hive's queen, who turns out to be more liquid than anything else. Particularly when, by accident, she is squashed.

TrustMovies is making jokes of all this, but Josh and Ben take it very, very seriously. The idea of sustainable food production plays a large part in the movie, late in which, Josh goes to an important meeting in Switzerland, the point of which I wasn't sure I fully understood. (As a filmmaker, Johnsen is bigger on showing than on telling, so we have to make do with what we can garner from the occasional off-the-cuff conversations we overhear via sound design that it not all it might be.) It seemed clear to me that the meeting did not go all that well, yet Josh and the Nordic Food Lab persevere.

You'll grow fond of these two lads, and of Roberto, too, even as some questions do arise. We see an awfully lot of insects killed, often cooked alive, which I guess, depending on your idea about the sanctity of life of species other than human, you will view with alarm or understanding. I can imagine a spin-off from PETA -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Insects -- arising out of this documentary.

But someday, long into the future, when your great-grandkids invite you for a holiday dinner of wasp, cricket and grasshopper stew, preceded by an appetizer of sauteed queen termite (above), just remember: You saw it here first at New York City's Film Forum.  That's where BUGS, from Kino Lorber, opens for its U.S. theatrical debut this coming Wednesday, September 27, for a one-week run. It will also play Seattle at the SIFF Cinema Uptown on October 6, in Los Angeles at Laemmle Monica Film Center on October 13, and elsewhere, too. Click here and scroll down to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

No comments: