Monday, October 26, 2009

Movie with Abe: Food Beware

Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution
Directed by Jean-Paul Jaud
Released October 16, 2009

You don’t want to know what’s in your food. That’s been proven recently in films like “Fast Food Nation” and “Food, Inc.” Now that it’s settled, how about a film that probes the detrimental environmental and health-related effects of what we’re eating and even presents a possible alternative? It sounds like a good idea, but it’s certainly not anywhere near as interesting or exciting as the actual French Revolution.

“Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution” spotlights one small village in France and demonstrates how eating only organic can be realized. Schoolchildren try their organically-prepared food and admit that they like it, and success is declared. The point is made that it tastes okay, but how about the logic and legitimacy of expanding it beyond the borders of that one tiny town? Interviewees agree that people often don’t buy organic because it’s too expensive, and their response to that is simply that it’s well worth the added cost. Unfortunately, that won’t convince all those holdouts preventing the transition to a greener Earth.

The population showcased is far too small a sample, and its triumph in one location doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it will translate effectively to a mass implementation. The children eating the carefully-prepared menus in their school encased by white walls seem like they’ve been quarantined as part of an experiment in a mental institution. They’re happy with the medicine they’re being given, but why should that indicate that, outside in the real world, this food actually tastes good and satisfies its consumers? That is hardly the only reason for organic living, but the film fails in trying to prove that organic is better by looking only inward to a small, closed-off community.

“Food Beware” is also subject to the overwhelmingly intrusive hand of its director, a problem which often plagues documentaries. The subject material should be interesting enough on its merit, and while a director or narrator’s creative touch can certainly help, the film should be driven by its protagonist, be it a theme or a character. Michael Moore or somewhere else with his rather loud brand of charisma has nothing to do with this movie, so it’s up to the subject at hand to carry it.

In this case, the supposed organic revolution is meant to be the focus, yet the film contains incessant shots of the sun rising and setting. Every time a day ends it seems like the movie too will be finished, but no such luck. It ends and starts again more times than the final “Lord of the Rings” movie. There’s no place for such over-dramatization in a documentary, and clearly director Jean-Paul Jaud and his crew think too much of their little film. Perhaps the repeated setting and rising of the sun could represent the cycle of life which depends on a universal switch to organic consumption and living, but that seems like too bold a statement for the people who created this less than-inspiring movie to be making.


Please note: a version of this review was originally published in the Washington Square News.

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