Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Top 5 documentaries that have changed the way I look at food

List by Tosca

"As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it."
- Buddy Hackett

About a month ago I watched the documentary Mardi Gras : made in China [DVD] which explores the production and consumption of the mardi gras beads that are so famous in New Orleans, Louisiana. What I saw made me feel incredibly guilty about having such a careless attitude about plastic beads that a group of people slogged their guts out in a foreign country to produce while making next to no money for it. Some documentaries just hit you that way. I updated my Facebook status making reference to how the DVD made me feel and a colleague responded by saying that she would watch this one if I watched her recommendation. Blithely unaware, I agreed, and watched the most shocking footage detailing the treatment of animals - as pets, food, clothing and entertainment - that will, I am sure, stay with me for life. Hidden cameras showed inside footage of slaughterhouses, puppy farms, circuses...you name it and it was there. It made me wonder, how much do I know, really, about food? The answer was a combination of two things: nothing and only what I want to know, please and thank you. So out of curiosity I requested a pile of foodie documentaries from across our libraries. Finally, after two weeks of non-stop nightly watching, I have picked the top 5 documentaries that have changed the way I look at food.

Food investigators [DVD videorecording]
Tagline: Surprising information about food that may just change your appetite.
Doctor Renee Lim and Joe Avati as "The Food Investigators" take a look at just what Australians are eating and use cutting edge science to uncover just how our food is made. They reveal facts behind the food we eat that will surprise, shock and possibly affect what you buy and what you eat. Presenters, Renee Lim, Joe Avati. Executive producer, Sue Clothier. Rated: G - suitable for general audiences.

Tosca's comment: A lot of the information that Renee Lim & Joe Avati share is counter intuitive and every time they gave me another statistic I had to hit pause and process the info. Good info! Just a little mind blowing.

Super size me [DVD videorecording] / written by Morgan Spurlock ; directed by Morgan Spurlock
Tagline 1: The first ever reality-based movie ... everything begins and ends in 30 days.
Tagline 2: A film of epic portions.
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock embarks on a journey to find out if fast food is making Americans fat. For 30 days he can't eat or drink anything that isn't on McDonald's menu; he must eat three square meals a day, he must eat everything on the menu at least once and supersize his meal if asked. He treks across the country interviewing a host of experts on fast food and a number of regular folk while downing McDonald's to try and find out why 37% of Americans are now overweight. Spurlock's gruelling diet spirals him into a metamorphosis that will make you think twice about picking up another Big Mac. Cast: Daryl Isaacs, Morgan Spurlock, Bridget Bennett, Lisa Ganjhu, Alexandra Jamieson, Stephen Siegel. M - Suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over. Adult themes.

Tosca's comment: What did I learn? Too much of anything can be harmful. One would think that goes without saying but Super Size Me proves that, hey, somebody does need to say it after all. This made me remember how normal it was for mum to make home cooked meals every night, how eating out was a once in a lifetime treat, that she grew a lot of the fruit and vegetables we ate and that I've taken a lot of that for granted and gone the opposite way. I'm still thrown for a loop that a man in perfectly good health would do this as an experiment and he does ask, 'When does personal responsibility stop and corporate responsibility begin?'

Foodmatters [DVD videorecording] : you are what you eat
Tagline: "Let they food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates.
Join leading authorities on nutrition and natural healing as they uncover the true cause of disease. Find out what works, what doesn't and what's killing you. Becoming informed about the choices you have for you and your family's health and well-being can save your life. This DVD uncovers the trillion dollar worldwide 'Sickness Industry', and exposes a growing body of scientific evidence proving that nutritional therapy can be more effective, more economical, less harmful and less invasive than most conventional medical treatments. A film by James Colquhoun and Laurentine Ten Bosh. Featuring : Andrew Saul, Charlotte Gerson, Dr. Dan Rogers, David Wolfe. G - Suitable for general audiences.

Tosca's comment: Explores how sickness has become a business and looks at how nutrition can prevent the underlying causative aspects of illness. After the segment that looks at the types of food available in schools, no wonder mum never let me buy my lunch there - pizzas, deep fried foods, sodas and cakes. For kids? Seriously? Interesting piece of info - I read somewhere that the documentary was independently funded so that it could remain free of bias.

Food, Inc. [DVD videorecording] / written by Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein, Kim Roberts; directed by Robert Kenner
Tagline 1: Hungry for change?
Tagline 2: You'll never look at dinner the same way again.
Lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing how our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profits ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. Reveals surprising--and often shocking--truths about what we eat, how it's produced and who we have become as a nation. 2009 Academy Awards Nominee, Best Documetary Feature. Winner, 2010 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, Best Documentary Feature. Interviewees: Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, Gary Hirshberg, Joel Salatin. Originally produced as a motion picture in 2008. PG - Parental guidance recommended for younger viewers. NOTE: Animal slaughter.

Tosca's comment: American-centric but still an eye-opener.

Earthlings [DVD videorecording] / written, produced & directed by Shaun Monson ; a Nation Earth Organization production
Tagline: Make the connection.
A film about mankind's complete dependence on, yet total disrespect for, animals used as pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and for medical or scientific research. With hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, Earthlings chronicles the day-to-day practices of some of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit. Narrator: Joaquin Phoenix. Editor, Shaun Monson. Originally produced in 2003. In English with optional English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Tosca's comment: Disturbing. Graphic. Heartbreaking. Disgusting. Thought provoking. Shocking. I know, even as someone who only occasionally eats red meat, where my meals come from. What I was a little unclear about was what animals went through to end up on my plate. This might be an American-centric documentary but it highlighted how little I knew about food preparation in New Zealand. I have to be honest, after a while I came to hate Joaquin Phoenix's narration because he just kept hitting me with fact after statistic after image. By the end of it all I felt guilty just for being human. It's a hard watch and it's incredibly grim.

The sixty-four thousand dollar question after all of this is: What will I do differently now? I'll tell you what I'm not going to do: I'm not going to become a vegetarian or a vegan (even though, after Earthlings it was a pretty gosh darn close call); I'm not going to wear fur (not that I did anyway, but I certainly never will now) and I'm definitely not going to wear leather (never did, never will after this). What I am going to do: visit local markets more often; buy local produce; read food packaging labels carefully; buy free range eggs; look at having a little vegetable garden of my own (should be comical because I kill cacti plants without even trying) and, generally, try to make more informed decisions. Occasionally, I'll probably still eat marmite and chip sandwiches.

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