It's sometimes still hard to believe that the fattest nation on Earth, America, has a huge hunger problem - those are the reality of the times, and there's ample reason for it. Some of those issues revolving around large farm complexes, subsidies and the processed food companies were discussed in Food, Inc.
A Place At The Table appears to tug heartstrings by focusing on 3 small families that struggle to feed themselves amid a bigger picture of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. It features actor Jeff Bridges, founder of End Hunger Network and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio.
The PG-rated documentary that made Sundance Film's 2012 selection will be available in select theaters March 1 - here is one trailer:
Additional details and commentary below...
The film is getting dim reviews by critics who saw it when the film was called Finding North in its Sundance phase. They point out inconsistencies like the single mom working hard through college but can't feed her kids, yet she has a Blackberry phone and gets her hair done thoughout. Maybe in other countries our problem looks like a priority one? Alternately, by zeroing in on personal lives, it can make one feel empathetic, maybe relatable.
On the one hand the film would appear to hint at the plummeting economy and government policy as a big problem, not so much the availability of food. Another big issue is access to affordable fresh foods - and the malnutrition from cheap and easy processed foods contributing to obesity, also a form of starvation from malnourishment. But critics, especially overseas ones, found the back-and-forth visuals of impoverished Americans with morbidly obese ones confusing and insulting.
On the other hand, images in the trailer of going to the federal level and joining forces with Michelle Obama were stomach-turning. I understand that well-intentioned celebrity chefs can raise a lot of awareness when their message is welcomed on popular talk shows and praised by the administration. But, it made me want to go back to focusing on problems with authority like those raised in Farmaggeddon with the attack on small farms. If farms that provide local fresh foods are laid waste by the FDA gestapo - how can we hope to help malnutrition and hunger at the local level? If people get arrested for feeding the homeless, how can we be free to help our fellow man? If front-yard gardens are illegal, uprooted, and growers are threatened with jail and fines, then it would appear our government is only dangling the carrot and mightily pleased with hunger.
Food banks are closing and struggling to feed the growing amount of the hungry left in the dust from job loss - what can we do about that? The families fortunate enough to keep jobs struggle to feed their own and it's becoming harder to give. Will the film say "Hey, grow your own, People! Hug your farmers!" or will it simply stress giving till it kills us and say "Hey, let's write letters to Congress and make our government pay, - it's free!"
Does A Place at the Table go over anything we don't already know? If it doesn't address the devaluing of our dollar and a do-able solution for struggling families, then I probably don't want to hear about it. If it doesn't point fingers at a deliberate engineering of a "food crisis," then I'd rather keep that 90 minutes emotionally stable and steeped in other research like meal planning and finding inexpensive ways to buy or raise organic. If they offer better ways to access fresh local without government interference, I'm listening.
Another criticism implicated in projects like these which propel celebrities to the forefront is - can more commercialism help with corporate commercialism problems? Perhaps to remain positive, it's best to look at those ventures like the MD who concedes to any therapy that helps his patient - as long as it helps.
So will A Place At The Table spawn the type of activism and awareness that rose steadily in the five years following Food, Inc.'s release? The documentary thinks it has a solution that we can all stand behind - I'm not so sure. The exact How-To's of that solution remain to be seen in select theaters starting March 1.
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