Focus Features takes an alternative look at food and movies by soliciting examples of “sustainable cinema” from five prominent figures within the food movement.
A really great film about food’s power to liberate even the most repressed soul. What’s so wonderful about this movie is its gorgeous understatement; unlike a lot of contemporary foodie flicks, Babette’s Feast doesn’t TELL you how important food is; it shows you. The scenes of the feast’s preparation build so perfectly to the climax that you almost can’t sit still. In Danish—but it hardly matters, as there are only about five lines of dialogue.
American food enthusiasts have nothing on the foodies in Japan, a country that takes its food culture to a wild level. When this film came out, the egg-yolk kissing scene got all the attention; it’s deserved, but the rest of the story—and the texture of the movie—is instructional and inspiring.
Eat at Bill's: Life in the Monterey Market
A sweet little documentary about a family-owned produce market in Berkeley, whose proprietor, Bill Fujimoto, truly gets, and gets into, fresh, seasonal food. Yes, it’s a bit special—an upscale store serving an upscale market in the middle of America’s “salad bowl”—this wouldn’t work everywhere. But it does capture the energy of the farmer’s market movement, as well as the enthusiasm that is missing from America’s modern grocery experience.
OK, so it was camp even when it came out in the early 1970s, but this classic sci-fi pic about the dystopic, famished future—2022—effectively portrays the Population Bomb angst of the times in a way that may still resonate. The depictions of scarcity, and the brief glimpses into the lives of those still rich enough to eat well (meat is like gold), are arresting even today; despite all our “progress,” we’re still not out of the woods. Plus, this movie may have the most awesome closing line in sci-fi history.
Sort of an update on Soylent Green, but funnier. Technically, this isn’t a film about food; it’s another film about a dystopic future where, due to a kind of reverse evolution, the human race has become really, really dumb. But food production is one area where poor intelligence really shows; in the movie, the population is threatened because farmers have been persuaded to irrigate with a Gatorade-like sports drink (“contains the electrolytes plants crave”) —a nice comment about the direction our current ag system sometimes seems to be headed. The opening scenes alone, where our breeding catastrophe is explained, are worth the price of admission.