Originally published on The Green Fork.
Today, Civil Eats editor Paula Crossfield sent word that Food, Inc. has officially earned itself an Oscar nomination. This is no major surprise -- it's an amazing film that caught fire upon release and is still burning bright, having caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who parlayed her recent interview with Michael Pollan into a whole little food section on Oprah.com.
Having spent the last several years following the issues outlined in the film, I did not expect to be surprised by much that it covered and I wasn't, but as I was caught off guard by my emotional response to it. Food, Inc. basically left me crying like a baby for the people -- farmers and consumers alike -- who've been hurt by our food system.
That said, if you eat food and haven't seen this film yet, you should.
While you're at it, there are more great food documentaries out there with which to feed your head. A few years ago, I curated a "Shortlist" of food films for Art's Engine, the group that runs the Media That Matters Film Festival, so I'll not revisit the ones I mentioned there, except to say that The Real Dirt on Farmer John is still one of my favorite movies of all time. Here's a few fresher cinematic tidbits that I've eaten up since:
Fresh A touch more positive and less polished than Food, Inc, Fresh too has made some waves this year.
Homegrown This snapshot of a (relatively) traditional family operating an urban homestead in Pasadena, California shatters the notion that urban farming is for hippies or their more contemporary counterparts, hipsters. Homegrown documents the story of the Dervaes family, who grow (literally) tons of produce on less than a quarter of an acre, and operate a website where they share their journey. I interviewed director Robert McFalls at last year's Maryland Film Festival, check out the video below.
Julie and Julia Much more mainstream and less political than any of the others mentioned here, Julie & Julia was great because it inspired people to get back into the kitchen. Also, Meryl Streep (who also earned an Oscar nomination for her role as Julia Child) virtually channeled the giant of French cooking, forcing the viewer to at once fall in love with her and share her pure love for good food.
The Future of Food An oldie but goodie, The Future of Food lays out information on industrial food technology, food policies and consumer issues.
Living a Nightmare Not for the faint of heart, Living a Nightmare offers a rare glimpse into the state of intensive animal livestock production in Michigan. Watch and weep and prepare to go vegan until you manage to wipe your mental hard drive clean of this one.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention two very exciting film projects that are still in the works -- The Greenhorns and The Queer Farmer Project. I saw a rough ten minute cut of the latter a few weeks ago here in Brooklyn, and it was heartfelt and inspiring and brought a fresh and unique perspective to food politics and the nature of growing food. The former, I hear, is nearing the last stages of post production and I can't wait to see the final cut.
One film you won't see in a theater anytime soon is Pig Business, which last I heard, had been all but shut down from public screenings by pressure from the pork industry, but you can watch it in its entirety on YouTube.
Speaking of YouTube, if your appetite (or budget) is relatively small, you can find tons of free aperitifs right here on the old Internet. A few of my favorite sites for foodie videos are Cooking Up a Story and The Dairy Show. My colleagues at the GRACE Foundation, Karen Correa and Dulce Fernandes, have also produced a number of great film shorts.
That should be enough to tide you over until The Greenhorns makes its debut. Congratulations to everyone who was involved in Food, Inc, thanks to all who document the stories behind the food we eat, and bon appetite!