The Summer of Food Docs

If you like food for thought with your films, you’re in for a serious smorgasbord this summer. Beginning this week, a fresh batch of food documentaries hits the big screen. Here's a taste of what's on the menu.

FRESH (running time 71 minutes)

WHEN: Tonight, in D.C., at The Avalon, the first night of a 23-day tour across North America

WHAT: Assumes that the viewer has a basic understanding of industrialized agriculture and its impact on the environment, our diet and our economy and directs “its focus…on the farmers, thinkers, and business people across America who are coming up with alternatives” to the industrial model, writes director Ana Joanes, in a recent Huffington Post article.

: Joanes is a Swiss-born, New York-based filmmaker; this is her second documentary.

Featured in the film are: Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Swoope, Va. (see last year’s story on Polyface Farm Day); Diana Endicott, of Good Natured Family Farms, a co-op of family farms in Kansas and Missouri, and her business relationship with David Ball, the owner of a family-owned supermarket chain; Russ Kremer, a Missouri pork farmer/cooperative leader who switched from mass-scale conventional farming to pasture-based farming without antibiotics; and Will Allen, a 2008 MacArthur Genius Fellow and founder of Growing Power, an urban farming nonprofit based in Milwaukee, Wis.

PRESSURE COOKER (running time: 99 minutes)

WHEN: Opens May 27 in New York, the first of its eight-city run, which includes D.C.; the film is also scheduled for broadcast on BET later this year

WHAT: No agriculture speak here. This gritty reality-show style doc trails a year in the life of three high school seniors in Philadelphia competing for culinary scholarships and a ticket out of their working class neighborhood.

WHO: Co-directed by Mark Becker (“Lost Boys of Sudan,” “Romantico”) and Jennifer Grausman, the daughter of Richard Grausman, founder of Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), the organization providing the culinary training and scholarships.

Featured in the film are: Erica, cheerleader and caregiver to her younger physically handicapped sister; Tyree, star football player and his single mother’s rock; Fatoumata, straight-A student and Malian immigrant; and Mrs. Stephenson, the no-bull, tough-love culinary arts teacher.

FOOD, INC. (running time: 93 minutes)

WHEN: Opens in theaters nationwide June 12 (comes to D.C. the week of June 19)

WHAT: Investigative journalism on film. A highly researched examination of the history, players, politics, policy and business practices of industrial agriculture and its impact on a complex, interconnected web, including the environment, family farms, food safety, public health, occupational safety and workers’ rights. Goes to great lengths to explain how each piece of the food system equation connects and how it affects you at dinner every night.

WHO: Director-producer Robert Kenner (“Two Days in October,” “The Blues Series”). Co-produced by Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation” and correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly; Schlosser and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” Michael Pollan (who’s also featured in FRESH) are co-narrators.

Featured in film are: Joel Salatin (maybe this should be called the summer of Joel?); Stoneyfield Farm’s Gary Hirshberg, whose organic yogurt products are now being sold in Wal-Mart; food safety advocate Barbara Kowalcyk, whose 2-year-old son died after eating an E.coli-tainted hamburger; a Smithfield Foods union organizer; a Perdue chicken farmer disclosing farming practices; a Latino family weighing the cost of fresh vegetables versus drive-thru cheeseburgers; and farmers that have been sued by Monsanto for “patent infringement.”

Visibly absent: Big agriculture. Smithfield, Perdue, Tysons and Monsanto all declined to be interviewed for the film.

By Kim ODonnel |  May 26, 2009; 7:50 AM ET Food Movie News
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

In a just society, Monsanto's execs would be hung, slowly, or shot for bullying and oppressing hardworking farmers. Their flacks would meet the same fate.

Posted by: davidlewiston | May 26, 2009 5:23 PM

Thanks for the food docs post. Interesting stuff.

Just an FYI: Polyface Farm is in Swoope, VA--not Swopes. :)

Posted by: earlysun | May 26, 2009 8:40 PM

Earlysun, DOH. Bad typo. It is being fixed now! I will be eager to hear what you think of any or all of these films.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 26, 2009 9:25 PM

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