Not so much a documentary on the travesty of what passes for food production and retailing in North America, as a rallying cry for consumers to reclaim what they eat, The Future of Food is novel in that it offers comprehensive solutions rather than merely depicting problems. This two-disc set uses the first disc to focus on the mechanization of food production (particularly crops and distribution thereof), and the second disc to illustrate a comprehensive way to challenge and consume outside the grid.
There is no shortage of alarming facts in TFOF. For instance, at one time there were 5,000 varieties of potatoes grown worldwide, rather than the four kinds we have at present. Because fewer varieties of said vegetables are grown-assembly line style-all are vulnerable to pests and disease. Though uneconomic, it is variety that ensures a natural resistance to threats. Going the dysfunctional route, our brave new food makers opt for more adventurous solutions such as pesticides and genetic engineering. These “solutions” segue into a host of braver problems such as environmental and economic hazards like Monsanto Corporation’s growing grip on canola. Monsanto has patented a genetically modified strain of canola that has contaminated normal canola crops throughout North America and any farmer growing the strain, even hybrid versions, must pay royalties. Given how seeds spread inadvertently through wind, insects and birds, such a claim seems ridiculous. Enter the case of Monsanto vs. Schmeiser in which a Canadian judge ruled against a hapless farmer who had strains of genetically modified crops growing on his field inadvertently because they fell off a truck and onto his land. Such are cases in point on a multi-barbed film smashing into our minds.
Just when the viewer feels completely doomed, disc two offers alternatives to traditional grocery store shopping, such as showing how to harvest and store seeds from fruits and vegetables, buying directly from farmers co-ops or simply opting to buy organic. Other alternatives, such as lobbying the government, are suggested-but are seemingly not as effective as direct action. Given the broad topic, there’s no doubt that Garcia had to struggle with providing a comprehensive film to viewers as she abruptly switches from one horrifying fact on North American food production to the next. Nowhere is this abruptness felt more than at the end of the documentary when Garcia employs a formulaic redemptive ending. That said, the stylistic and amateur ending is eclipsed by an abundance of solutions even the most accomplished documentarians would be challenged to match on any topic. (I Khider)
Dir. Deborah Koons Garcia, DVD, US $25, www.thefutureoffood.com