vegansaurus!

12/08/2009

Movie review: The Future of Food  »

About 10 minutes into The Future of Food I decided I would never eat food ever again. Never. Ever. Seriously, starving to death actually seemed like a better idea! At least if I starved, I wouldn’t grow a third arm or leg or ass cheek as a result of eating pesticide-covered food!

All right, so I’ve been vegan for right at a year now. Seriously, best decision I’ve ever made. Being a movie obsessive, I watched The Future of Food on Hulu* because, well, it was about food, and I’m fascinated by food and our food policies. I also heard that The Future of Food mines a lot of the same material as the more recently released Food, Inc., but without the head-scratchingly ridiculous hypocrisy inherent in the latter movie’s stance on animals. Sorry dude, ripping on the food industry’s treatment of cows and chickens only to lionize a farmer who “ethically” slits open a chicken’s throat onscreen doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot sense to me. Wisely, The Future of Food sticks to vegetable production.

Director Mrs. Jerry Garcia (no, really, she’s Garcia’s widow) spends the bulk of the movie shedding light on the use of pesticides in crop production; seed patenting and the resulting lawsuits; the disturbing, God-like science behind GMO foods; the need for labeling GMO foods; the messed up U.S. policy and regulation surrounding GMO foods and resulting global fall out from those policies; the plight of American farmers; and the food industry’s dominance of allegedly independent academic research.

Whew. Solid. No doubt. I’m guessing many of you are equally concered with some if not all of the issues raised in this movie.

The problem is that—aside from the fact that Garcia presents everything with all the subtlety of an 1880s fire-and-brimstone preacher delivering his sermon to the choir—The Future of Food's breadth was also its undoing for me. Watching this movie is kinda like going to a protest action. It's always the same thing—a wide coalition of progressives who, no doubt with their hearts in the right place, can't seem to focus. Legalize marijuana. Ecological policy reform. Free Mumia Abu-Jubal and Leonard Peltier. Down with capitalism. In theory, I agree with each of these concepts, but, dude, I thought I was attending an antiwar protest. It may seem harmless, and we should of course laud diversity and inclusiveness of opinions. But the problem is that any single message is diluted under the weight of all of them. In the aggregate, the messages become a lot of static in the background of the life of the average person and easy for the haters to marginalize the message: “Just those crazy progressives at it again.”

Focus, people! I can just hear my high school English teacher telling me to pick a theme and go with it. It takes Garcia about 80 of the movie’s 88 minutes to come upon what I think is her message: we should all eat organic food grown and raised locally. While I don’t really understand how this message is a solution to some of the concerns she lays out, particularly the issue of Monsanto patenting all of the available seeds, hey, it’s hard to disagree with her—if, in fact, organic farms are commercially viable and sustainable, a fact presented as a given in this film. Of course, I’m still too scared to eat anything ever again, so none of this particularly matters.

And dammit, don’t get me started on the treacly final line of this movie. “It’s up to you”? What? Shut the hell up, hippie lady. Pssst… the next generation is fairly jaded when it comes to overblown melodrama like this. How is it that you’ve made me, someone who ostensibly agrees with your entire message, hate your movie with one line? Ugh. Seriously, I can’t be the only one who winces at schmaltz like this, right?

Oh well. I know it’s not what Garcia was going for, but I’m still waiting for someone with a sense of humor to make the truly great pro-vegan documentary. Is I’m Vegan going to cut it, or do we need more firepower? What’s next on your plate, Michael Moore? Hey Jonathan Safran Foer, you busy? Wanna go to film school?


*I loved that my viewing of this film was brought to me with limited commercial interruption by Dole.

Zach Cincotta is a vegan movie obsessive who, along with his vegan brother, discusses his thoughts on every movie he watches at Le Souvenir d’un avenir. When he’s not slowly burning out his projector bulb, Zach is an entertainment and business attorney representing awesome bands, record labels and other small businesses. You can contact him here, and follow him on Twitter here.

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