Edible DocsThis thanksgiving, I ate my fill. Having hosted my family for the first time, I must say I relished a bit too much of the fruits of my labor. After several days of digesting oh-so-many calories, this has surprisingly become a time of reflection. This blog used to be one of those spaces. So in honor of taking time to both digest and reflect on eating, I'm recommending these food related documentaries. A menu of tasty morsels:
Amuse-Bouche: Fake Fruit Factory
Fake Fruit Factory by Chick Strand.
Not about real food per se, but delicious viewing nonetheless. Chick Strand's 1986 ethnography Fake Fruit Factory is built through16mm close ups that empower the "chatter" amongst women working at a Mexican factory. The sensual and sexual content inspiring their laughter contrasts with the absence of juiciness in the fake fruit they are paid to construct. If you do not know Strand's work - get to watching an experimental film pioneer.
Appetizer: I Like Killing Flies
With 900 items on the menu, Matt Mahurin somehow manages to capture them all in his 2004 documentary I Like Killing Flies. Endlessly entertaining doc in which a neighborhood cook serves up truth about gentrification, class, and taste in short order behind the counter of his West Village greasy spoon.
Main Course: Soul Food Junkies
"Soul Food Junkies" 2012 Trailer from Byron Hurt.
Byron Hurt's documentaries reach audiences through his affable, informed intimacy. Though heavily researched, his warm tone gives a dose of history and social theory like fiber surreptitiously blended into your sweet potato pie. Here, as with Beyond Beats and Rhymes, Hurt welcomes us into his life and perspective with focus on his father who sadly passed at age 63 of pancreatic cancer. This inspired Hurt to take this journey into the potential causes of his father's passing: his physical health. And connected to his weight, an external marker of his father's love of soul food. Hurt wonders why and how the soul food addiction swelled amongst African American families and, as he reveals, how it became a passion and even an unhealthy addiction for many Americans. He considers the impact of slavery on this culinary tradition and moves to a more recent history of self-sufficient food production and healthy eating as part of the Black Power movement. Hurt ends with a picture of "food deserts" - places, both urban and rural, where low income people of color cannot find edible produce and therefore, are challenged to make healthy eating choices. Here the film becomes a work of social justice. Thankful this doc got wide release on Independent Lens and reached a mass public television audience. (It's now available for viewing on Netflix!)