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Film Review: "Fresh"

by: JayinPhiladelphia

Wed May 27, 2009 at 13:46:18 PM PDT


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"Fresh", the new film from Ana Sofia Joanes, is the latest in the recent line of great documentaries taking a look at our food system.  A lot of good stuff is packed into the film's 71 minutes, as we wander around fields from Virginia to Missouri, follow Will Allen as he leads a weekend workshop at Milwaukee's Growing Power, head out to see an artisanal honey producer in Kansas and meet just some of the other people along the way who help get local products onto the shelves of locally-owned stores and into people's kitchens.
JayinPhiladelphia :: Film Review: "Fresh"
Much of the focus in this film is on those who do things the right way, and how they do it.  The farm tours are in-depth and entertaining, and provide quite a contrast to the reeking, monotonous mega-industrial messes of unnatural monoculture just down the road from these sustainable farmers' operations.  That difference is illustrated starkly by one scene in which crates full of dozens of chicks at a time are forcefully dumped off the back of a truck and onto the hard ground of an industrial grower's chicken house.  If you watch carefully, you'll catch one chick regain its footing and briefly achieve 'flight' after smacking into the ground itself, before being immediately crushed and buried under about 4 dozen other birds dumped out from the next crate about half a second later - that just about sums up all the freedom and joy any animal will ever experience in such a setting.

Now contrast that with the happy chickens and other animals of Polyface Farm, living the way they're supposed to live, as Joel Salatin takes us around his place, giving us a few great quotes along the way.  Russ Kremer, a man who's all too familiar with the numerous dangers of large scale industrial hog production, brings us out to his Missouri farm where he raises his herd of heritage hogs naturally.  Will Allen leads us on a weekend workshop at Growing Power in Milwaukee, and one thing anybody will notice is the great diversity amongst those who attended.

Michael Pollan, George Naylor, Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety and John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia, share their thoughts with us throughout the film on topics ranging from the many problems of the industrial agricultural system to the recent nutritional deflation in 'conventional' produce to studies on organic productivity and beyond.  We also get to see how David Ball, a supermarket owner in Missouri, partners with local growers and producers to help strengthen not only his business, but the entire local economy.  Bringing back sustainable food systems locally all across America is truly the quickest and surest path to reviving our nation in every possible way, and these are just some of the many stories and examples out there that prove it.

"Fresh" does a wonderful job of presenting these stories in a highly accessible manner.  This would be a great film to take that friend or relative of yours out to see - the one(s) you wish would read the articles, links or books you suggest, but who you know probably never will.  So why not smuggle them into a quick, fun and upbeat film instead?  I'm personally gonna try to make sure my mother watches this film, next time I'm back in New Jersey.  "Fresh" is an excellent complement to that other great new documentary, "Food, Inc." (which was reviewed by Jill here, and by me here).  Highly recommended, check it out when you get the chance.  Here's the list of upcoming screenings.

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food revolution (4.00 / 3)
Thanks for a great review. I heard this was an upbeat film highlighting recent progress and I really look forward to seeing it. The latest "Yes" magazine issue on Food is also quite positive to share with friends and family new to the issues.

Instead of seeing it at the theater (4.00 / 2)
I'm going to wait till I can get it on DVD. That way I can see it and share it with others. I'm really looking foreward to that, as well as Food Inc.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

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