Sunday, February 8, 2009

Food Inc. at the Berlinale

The Berlinale, the Berlin film festival, started Thursday, and my family has been trying to do its level best to support the thing (God knows it would shrivel up and die without us).

Thursday night the boys and their Papa went to see Ben Hur on a huge screen, it started at 8:30 and went until something like 2 in the morning (I guess there was some talking somewhere, and an intermission . . . ) - it was still Felix's vacation week so he didn't have to go to school the next day.

Saturday night we went to see a series of short films with some of our neighbors, and they were kind of cool and very mixed - anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes long. From Russia, England, Paraguay, the U.S., and I'm blanking on the other places. Hubby liked the British one best; I loved the images in the Paraguayan one, which was about a very poor old woman with unbelievably long white hair (not that essential to the plot but tremendously essential to the images) - it was from a classic Paraguayan short story and I thought it was very good. Max and hubby thought the ending was too dramatic. Poor Felix fell asleep before the last one (now I remember, it was a German one), in which a very Mr. Bean-like character celebrates his birthday at home with cigarettes and waiting for the phone to ring. (And I remember the other one too, it was Indonesian and it was about a homeless couple who look for recyclables, as far as I could tell, all day long. I liked that too.)

And Sunday morning Max went to see Baraka with a friend which he said was very good. But why I'm writing is yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, we all four went to see Food, Inc., which I guess isn't even showing in the States yet. It was very impressive and very depressing. Eric Schlosser of Fast Food Nation fame and Michael Pollan of many fames but most relevantly here The Omnivore's Dilemma, worked very much on this book and were both also present for a panel discussion afterwards. (Along with Gael Garcia Bernal, actor and director but not of this movie - I guess he's just very engaged in the subject - and some other people like the Italian founder of the Slow Food movement and the former German Health Minister who got laws passed about labeling genetically modified organisms . . . )

Anyway, the panel wasn't really the most important part, the movie was. It was impressive and depressing, with a little bit of uplift in the middle around Polyface Farms. (little plug: Read The Omnivore's Dilemma!!!) I thought the movie was very much like The Omnivore's Dilemma (essential message: our food supply is a mess and disgusting; there are alternatives and go for them, they might cost more right now but we can't afford the hidden and unhidden health, environmental, and social costs of the current system and besides it is completely unsustainable which, as so-very-smart Michael Pollan pointed out in the discussion yesterday, means that the system will implode and fail sooner or later). Anyway, very much like The Omnivore's Dilemma but what I didn't get from the book, and I don't actually think it was in the book but anyway I didn't see it, was that even if we are not eating at fast food places like McDonald's, they are such huge buyers that they have caused most production in the United States to cater to them, so almost all the supermarket food we can buy is part of the enormous, monoculture, consolidated supply chains that have been set up to serve the fast food places - along with the horrific conditions for animals AND WORKERS, the government-subsidized waste that means bad choices are made over and over . . . I can't do justice to it all which is why there is a movie.

Very depressing. Very important. Very glad I saw it.

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