Films and short videos are a powerful way of increasing awareness of and interest in the food system. With equal parts technology and artistry, filmmakers can bring an audience to a vegetable garden in Uganda, a fast food workers’ rights protest in New York City, or an urban farm in Singapore. And animation can help paint a picture of what a sustainable, just, and fair food system might look like. Film is an incredible tool for effecting change through transforming behaviors and ways of thinking.
There are many incredible films educating audiences about changes being made — or that need to be made — in the food system.
Anna Lappé and Food Mythbusters, for example, just released a new animated short film on how “Big Food” marketing targets children and teenagers, filling their diets with unhealthy processed food products — and what parents, teachers, and communities can do to combat it.
In addition to Lappé’s timely and compelling call to action, Food Tank has selected 26 films — both long and short — to share with you. From the importance of land rights for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to the insidious dominance of fast food in an urban community in California, each of these films can inform and inspire eaters all over the world. We ask that you, in turn, share this list with your networks in order that they may reach an even wider audience.
1. A Farmer in Africa: Property Rights: The lack of property rights and rental agreements create problems for smallholder farmers in many developing countries. Sometimes governments or corporations engage in land grabs, pushing farmers off the land, or regulate land use, keeping farmers from being able to cultivate their land. This short from the World Resources Institute explains the difficulty of balancing individual citizens’ rights to farm with the public good in sub-Saharan Africa.
2. A Place at the Table: Hunger, especially in the United States, is often not the result poverty, not food shortages. A Place at the Table profiles three of the 50 million Americans who live with hunger every day, and describes the challenges they face between staying full and eating healthy food.
3. Cooking by Heart: Domi et Cyril Sarthe’s Gnocchi with Spinach Sauce: Cooking by Heart’s short film is more than a lesson in how to make dumplings: It’s an examination of how simple and delicious a meal can be when the ingredients are grown right in one’s backyard.
4. Fast Food: Did you know the potato is the most-consumed vegetable in the United States? Or that the customers who visit McDonald’s 10 times a month make up 75 percent of its business? The Infographics Show packages fast food facts into easily digestible, pardon the pun, graphics.
5. Food Chains: Award-winning filmmaker Sanjay Rawal’s upcoming film sheds light on the human rights violations that occur to farm workers who pick 125 million kilograms (280 million pounds) of fresh fruits and vegetables each day across the United States. The movie discusses how big food companies ensure unfair wages exist, but also how some companies are using their weight in the market to push for labor justice.
6. Food Fight: Earth Amplified’s music video creates a world in which processed food is literally deadly. The Oakland-based hip-hop group makes more than music: Through SOS Juice, they also host community food justice workshops and serve fresh juice.
7. Food Speculation: In 2007 and 2008, food prices rose dramatically, resulting in food riots across the developing world. These riots reoccurred in 2010 and 2011. World Economy, Ecology & Development outlines how speculation on food futures causes dangerous fluctuation in food prices.
8. Forks Over Knives: This film takes a look at degenerative diseases that are plaguing the United States, linking them to America’s consumption of processed food and animal products, and suggests eating a more plant-based diet.
9. FRESH, the Movie: This film celebrates farmers who are innovating and reinventing the food system by confronting issues such as pollution, obesity, and depletion of natural resources.
10. The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers: On average, residents of the United States eat three hamburgers a week, which means the United States raises a lot of cows. This short from the Center for Investigative Reporting spells out the costs of conventionally raised beef.
11. How to Feed the World?: Created for the Bon Appétit exhibition at Paris’ Cité des Sciences in 2010, this short film profiles various ways of interacting with the global food system, from eating locally to to subsistence farming. It provides the viewer with a global perspective on food production and distribution, along with guidance on how to eat more sustainably.
12. La Cosecha/The Harvest: This 2010 documentary follows the lives of three migrant fieldworkers — all of them under the age of 18. These are just three of the estimated 400,000 children who work picking crops in the United States.
13. King Corn: Two East Coast documentarians move to the American heartland and plant a one-acre crop of corn, and discover how much of the American diet corn infiltrates.
14. Myth of Choice: Is junk food what we really crave?: Do kids want to eat processed food products devoid of nutritional value because they simply like them better than healthier, more nourishing food — or does junk food marketing target youth very aggressively? Food Mythbusters’ newest short film is dedicated to answering this question.
15. Nokia, HK Honey: Hidden in the cityscape of Hong Kong, there is a community of beekeepers who are providing residents with access to local honey and helping bring urban dwellers closer to their food.
16. Our Daily Bread: This film offers a shocking look at how food is produced and how food production companies use technology to maximize efficiency and profit. Without using words, the film allows the viewer to form their own opinions through the use of sounds of machinery, conveyor belts at a chicken factory, and the motor of a plane spraying pesticides.
17. Planning for a Sustainable Local Food System: Ideally, city planning also includes planning for a sustainable food system. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s GOTO2040 program calls for a stronger regional food system in the Chicago area, created through better financing and infrastructure.
18. Soil: Our Climate Ally Underfoot: The Center for Food Safety recently released a short video on the importance of improving and preserving the health of damaged soils. In the words of conservationist Richard King, interviewed in the video: “It’s critical to [future generations] that we develop a regenerative agriculture — and to do that, we have to start with building soil health.”
19. Soil Matters on the Farm: Gabe Smith doesn’t till his North Dakota farmland and he grows some crops not for food or for sale, but as cover crops. Smith’s goal is to improve the quality of soil — and, consequently, the nutritional value of his crops. His rejuvenated soil holds larger amounts of water and his farm is more drought-resistant. Because of his holistic approach, he no longer needs to use chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
20. Sustainable Agriculture: Where Do We Go From Here?: Large-scale agriculture is doing more harm than good, and the current patterns of population growth and agriculture will lead to more destruction of the planet’s resources. The Nature Conservancy argues for smaller-scale, environmentally sustainable agriculture.
21. The Garden: This Academy Award-nominated documentary tells the story of a South Central Los Angeles community of farmers and their urban garden that rose up, despite facing numerous obstacles, such as claims of eminent domain by the garden site’s previous owners.
22. The Meatrix: In 2003, GRACE’s Sustainable Table produced The Meatrix, an award-winning short about factory farming. The Eat Well Guide was released with the movie, offering viewers information about more sustainable food choices.
23. The Price of Sugar: This poignant film examines the working conditions and treatment of Haitian sugarcane farmers, exposing their struggle for basic human rights as they work to bring consumers an ubiquitous kitchen staple.
24. The Scarecrow: Tex-Mex restaurant corporation Chipotle’s new video is a beautifully made short about one scarecrow’s quest to free his local food system from unsustainable, processed foods.
25. Taste the Waste: German documentary filmmaker Valentin Thurn focuses his lens on food waste. Taste the Waste won Best Film of 2011 in Germany’s Atlantis Environment and Nature Film Festival and a Documentary Film Award at EKOFILM International Film Festival in the Czech Republic.
26. WASTE: Wasting food has greater costs than just what the consumer pays: It also wastes fossil fuels, water, and other crucial environmental resources. From the makers of Taste the Waste, Food Waste TV sheds light on the larger effects of food waste.