My husband, Jeffrey Lurie, and I have been helping fund documentaries that address global issues, such as Sergio, based on Samantha Powers' book Chasing the Flame, and Inside Job, which won the Oscar for best documentary last year. It's clear that these kinds of films advocating for social change or illuminating a particular subject can make a difference and help educate a growing population eager to learn and take a stand.
Approximately two years ago, I first heard about a documentary called Hungry in America. One of the film's producers, Julie Goldman, with whom I'd worked in the past, had mentioned in passing that she was involved with a project that was looking at the issue of hunger in this country. Inside Job, which was about to premiere at Cannes Film Festival, and told the story of the global financial crisis, should have prepared me for the notion that hunger was prevalent here in the United States. But it didn't and I was shocked to hear that a First World country had such an ignominious reality prevalent across all 50 states. I decided I needed to learn more about the systemic causes of hunger; Understand why there was no access to nutritious, affordable foods; why was hunger linked to the obesity crisis our nation was and is increasingly fighting; what was the meaning of words like "Food Insecurity," "Food Deserts"... terms I had never heard mentioned before.
I immediately asked Julie if the filmmakers were looking for other executive producers, if they need funds and what could we do. I met with Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson, the insatiable and ever persistent directors, heard about some of the stories they were pursuing -- even here in Philadelphia -- and quickly determined this was a project that Screen Pass pictures absolutely had to support.
Flash forward two years.
The film, currently called Finding North, but likely to get a new title now that Magnolia Pictures is going to distribute it next year, first premiered at Sundance Film Festival this past January 2012. Last night, it played in Philadelphia at The Center for Hunger-Free Communities' first annual national conference, under Drexel University's School of Public Health. Entitled "Beyond Hunger: Real People, Real Solutions," this conference has a clear mission of reigniting a dialogue on hunger and poverty in America. The audience of media reporters, academics, advocates, researchers and individuals got a sneak peek. They met some of the Witnesses to Hunger, women whose living testimony to the need for legislation that eliminates poverty and hunger in the United States, are in the film. They heard the impassioned words of Dr. Mariana Chilton, a powerful advocate of the women who "fight each day to provide for their children" and a hands on doctor in the ER who understands that a child is particularly vulnerable to the dangers of hunger and food insecurity in the first three years of life.
I am very proud of the team behind Finding North. So much hard work has gone into weaving together very complex issues and themes. We need to protect SNAP and WIC in the farm bill. We need to change our agricultural subsidy policies. We need to provide resources and tools to people who are food insecure. There are 49 Million Americans who are food insecure! We need to support local programs that address food access.
I hope that the outreach campaign that our producing partner, Participant Media, is brilliantly organizing for the film goes viral. Such is the power of social action, allowing for far greater awareness and participation in a world that is increasingly connected.
Follow Christina Weiss Lurie on Twitter: www.twitter.com/christinawlurie