GOOD

Coming to Theaters: Food

There's a bumper crop of new documentaries examining America's food system. Here's a sampler.

The slurping of ramen in Tampopo makes me want to run out to the noodle bar. Mario's Italian food in Mostly Martha turns even humble, dried pasta into something sensuous and ripe with meaning. From Pulp Fiction's "Royale with Cheese" dialogue to the butter scene in Last Tango in Paris, food has often played a supporting role in movies. Just think about the Reese's Pieces in E.T., the pie-eating contest in Stand By Me, Lelaina's snack food subsistence in Reality Bites, or the opening fish preparation scene in Eat Drink Man Woman.This summer, however, food is taking the lead in a cornucopia of documentaries hitting the big screen, the festival circuit, and the DVD aisle. They tend to offer something considerably less sweet than the familiar food-infused cinematic concoctions. The filmmakers show us again and again just how disgusting eating has become. This crop seems to follow the tradition of narrative exposés like Fast Food Nation and Humane Society's downer cow video. Here's a look at what's coming up.


Food, Inc.Director Robert Kenner manages to depict what's wrong with the food system in 93 minutes with the help of authors Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Kenner explores the consequences of the industrial food system with infographics and devastating personal stories, including those of a mother who lost her 2-year-old son because of an E. coli-contaminated hamburger and a Mexican-American family that opts for fast food because it seems cheaper than fresh vegetables.The film also hints at the brighter side of the food system, from organic yogurt pioneer Gary Hirshberg's attempts to go big by getting his products into Wal-Mart to proclamations about good food from Joel Salatin, the celebrated farmer from Polyface Farm in Virginia. The scenes from Salatin's chicken slaughtering yard, an investigation into workers' rights, and a companion book gives this film something for everyone-from neophytes to food policy wonks.Watch the trailer. (In select cities June 12).

The Greenhorns Severine von Tscharner Fleming's upcoming documentary focuses on farmers under 40. While that might not sound like a big deal, considering that the average age of farmers in the United States is 57, her twenty- and thirty-something farmers represent a new face of farming that is both whimsical and sensible. She's also launched a blog, a magic goat emblem (!), and a guide for beginning farmers-all hoping to inspire a new crop of youthful agrarians. With so many food documentaries focused on gurus like Pollan and company, expect this film to examine the demographic who will actually cultivate farming's future.Watch the trailer. (November 2009).

FRESH the movieAna Sofia Joanes's documentary also features sustainable food gurus Joel Salatin and Micheal Pollan, but tries to put a more positive spin on the reforms the food system needs. Based on a Salatin clip (in which he compares chemical agriculture to a drug trip) alone, the film may prove to be funnier and less heavy-handed than the others. Also expect appearances from Will Allen, the founder of the urban agriculture organization Growing Power, and other sustainable agriculture heavyweights talking about those baby steps we can take towards greener pastures. Think less scaremongering and more idealism.Watch the trailer. (On the film festival circuit.)

Killer at Large Film producer Bryan Young, who lost 40 pounds making the documentary, reframes obesity as a societal problem exacerbated by poorly managed food policy. The film depicts a 12-year old girl getting a liposuction and attempts to explain the hardwiring that compels humans to seek out fatty, high-energy foods. The film includes interviews with the consumer advocate Ralph Nader and the food psychology expert Brian Wansink. Expect a narrow and deep look at the psychological and evolutionary side of America's epidemic of expanding gutlines.Watch the trailer. (Theatrical version now on DVD.)

Food FightChris Taylor's film frames problems with agribusiness as a way to introduce the many heroes of California "countercuisine" such as chefs Alice Waters and Suzanne Goin and writers Michael Pollan and Russ Parsons. While its glorification of the movement might feel like hagiography to some, Grist's Tom Philpott offers some incisive commentary in what could be a companion for Julie Guthman's academic, but comprehensive, Agrarian Dreams.Watch the trailer. (On the festival circuit.)

The End of the LineBilled as the first major documentary about overfishing, reporter Charles Clover, author of a book of the same name that's been called the "maritime equivalent of Silent Spring," follows politicians, a tuna farmer-turned-whistleblower, and restaurateurs. Expect a British reporter aggressively exploring the darker side of seafood.Watch the trailer. (Opening in limited venues on June 19).These documentaries are part of a growing awareness about food-and watching them might just inspire a home-cooked meal, a community garden, or a call to Congress. Still, food cinema that celebrating the act of eating tends to show up more often in foreign titles. In Gastronomica's long list of food films, even the movies made in Hollywood have a tendency to focus on ethnic foods: the Italian food in Big Night, for example. Maybe this is the collective point these documentaries make: In America, we've got some work to do before we can celebrate the sensuous, regionally distinctive side of nation's cuisine on the big screen.
Articles
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
test
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics