Farm films cultivate food solutions

The snow is melting and growing season is here – almost. But even if we’ve only got a peek at green grass, Williamstown has agriculture on the brain. The College’s Sustainable Food & Agriculture Program, Storey Publishing and Images Cinema teamed up to present the second Farm Film Fest, which featured five films chronicling relevant food-related issues – from globalization to grocery store variety – and was held at Images on Sunday from 1 to 3:30 p.m.
The first segment of the film festival included an approximately hour-long film titled The Economics of Happiness, directed by Steven Gorelick, Helena Norberg-Hodge and John Page. The documentary featured citizen voices from six different continents, all stressing the importance of systemic change within the world’s economic framework. Mainly, the individuals interviewed all spoke along the same lines, calling for a different outlook on what is valuable within the economy.
The film highlighted the negative aspects of increasing GDP; mainly focusing on production, consumption and profit, and in turn seriously lacking where community involvement and local connections are concerned. Toward the end of the film, the directors’ aim shifted from portraying the pitfalls of a profit-based economy to showcasing the potential of a more sustainable, localized economic approach, where revenue earned within a community stays within that community and where profit is measured not by monetary gain but by the value of community endeavors.
The second portion of the film festival, called “Know Your Food,” captured the spirit of quirky individuals within the food and agriculture industry, with four shorts including The Mast Brothers, Some Like It Raw, Obsessives: Urban Farming and Obsessives: Soda Pop.
The Mast brothers of the first short are like Willy Wonka, except not exactly. First of all, there are two of them, and second, while these Brooklyn-based chocolatiers are most likely not willing to divulge their secret recipes, you can bet no oompa-loompas are involved in their candy-making. Rather, brothers Rick and Michael Mast are “craft” chocolate makers who operate alone and insist on using just two ingredients in their batches: cacao and cane sugar.
As explained in the film, the team insists on individuality and uniqueness in everything from production to packaging, importing their cocoa from specific areas in Madagascar, the Dominican Republic and the Venezuelan Caribbean coast via sailboat. “Food is always enjoyable,” said Rick Mast in the four-minute film directed by Michael Tyburski. “That is true 100 percent of the time when you know where it comes from.”
Some Like It Raw, directed by Andrea Love, wrapped witty fabric-scrap animation with a traditional documentary style to put forth a crafty commentary on the raw milk debate in just 10 minutes. This short film was not only entertaining but educational, incorporating a history of pasteurization – that it came into being when dairies moved their cows to the cities to provide an easy-access source of milk, in turn feeding the cows off “slop” from industrial centers, which in turn led to diseased milk.
The segment seemed to largely advocate for consumers’ right to choose raw milk, and one interviewee queried that if products like raw fish and tobacco are easily available, why is there a “milk question”?
The final two film shorts focused on individuals who have found their niche in the food industry. Obsessives: Urban Farming zeroed in on Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City, urban farmer and resident of Oakland, Calif. Carpenter shared her story onscreen concerning how she came to become an urban farmer – complete with pigs, chickens, goats, vegetables and even rabbits – in a run-down, vacant-except-for-crime neighborhood.
Carpenter, who described her region as a “food desert,” took to dumpster-diving to feed her bestial brood and described the low cost of planting produce instead of purchasing it. She was even taken under the wing of a local restaurateur who caught her rooting around in his waste bin; when he learned of her story, the two began cooking together.
Obsessives: Soda Pop starred John Nese, owner of the Los Angeles venue Galcos Soda Pop Stop, a family business that can only be described a grocery store turned soda central. In the 13-minute short, Nese narrates the ultimate love story: how he turned down the Pepsi-Cola salesman who came a-knocking, only to proudly stock his shelves with over 500 alternative brands of soda from all over the world, including flavors like cucumber and floral sodas – such as rose – from Romania. All, of course, were new to American taste buds. Now that’s a happy ending.

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