TaraK wrote >>
I'm a big film snot and don't usually like anything even remotely pushing a "message", but the light touch with which this was treated worked for me. Real footage of real situations, real people, real statistics.
But if a film is made intentionally to document something in order to elucidate a viewpoint on an issue and persuade viewers, as is the case of a large majority of purpose-driven documentaries, wouldn't you expect that?
I think we have very different taste. I'm all about the environment, but I just can't handle Berry's writing. Also, knew a really obnoxious fanboy of his once, which may have skewed my bias.
I think the film's message is important, but it's a little too easy to walk out on a feel-good mission. These practices still don't solve everything, and organic farming is not an option for the whole world, as it couldn't supply enough food. Food politics are complex, and there's no singular movement that can remedy the ills. I'm not saying the film is without merit, but that I hope people take it as a starting point for their exploration into food politics rather than an end-all.
I usually appreciate documentary films that have a larger scope of view, submerging themselves in areas of interest and finding several threads to follow, some of them contradictory. This seems to me, to ground the topics at hand in the larger backstory of life itself. Essay-type films like this one, can be well-made and very useful, and I can still enjoy them, but for me they are less like art and more like literature, if that makes sense? For instance, I enjoy Frederick Wiseman documentaries. There's no classic "keyhole structure" discernible in them, so they are more like documentaries to me, and less like essays with pictures. Which is fine, too!
As for Wendell, I will admit that I have had a very difficult time reading him in the city. But reading him outdoors, in the country, allowed for enough silence to take in what are really, very big ideas. To me, they are anthropology books, in a sense. What was it about his message that turned you off? And why do you think your (former?) friend was so excited about it?
I'll agree that food politics are complex. But what Berry might be suggesting is that small-scale farming done with respect to ecological health solves many, many problems simultaneously, not just the problem of hunger. Ultimately, small-scale farming assumes this as an underlying principle: we must make our lives out of what the earth rations out for us. There is no more than that. And one of the things it rations out, as a subsistence farmer, is self-reliance, true adulthood. Who is the boss of that farmer? If they provide for their family, have some surplus, treat their land, plants and animals with respect instead of treating them as machines, and leave the land better off than how they found it, what fuller life could a person lead?
I know I (and apparently, your friend) get a little overheated about this. But it just bugs me that we talk of so many complex technological solutions to these issues, when the solutions may in fact be the problem. It just seems like there's a whole lot of commotion and intellectualizing of the issue, which comes down to a fundamental human right, as well as a responsibility: all we have is what we are given. We can not think it any bigger. There is only so much to go around.
I really didn't leave the theater after this movie, feeling that I was on a feel-good mission. I think the film made it abundantly clear that, although even Wal-Mart may bow to consumer demand for organics, they're only bowing for one reason: money. So when the Gates Foundation tells me they're on a mission to feed the starving, excuse me for being incredulous. We have sold off our autonomy in excahnge for comfort, and no one is going to give it back to us for free.
I think the film, though glossy, raised this question for me: how do I do it? How do I live an honorable, autonomous life that is not at the expense of the fullness of other's lives, including those of plants, animals, land, water, and other people? And is this not the definition of a full life for me and my family? What honor is there in living your whole life on the backs of some less fortunate than yourself? Of course it is not possible to live life without consuming. But I think there is a fine line. I believe killing an animal and eating it, for instance, may be done honorably, or poorly. Life, for those we consume or those that work for our comfort, should not be a prison sentence. We made slavery illegal in our country, but in fact we just sent it away, or sent it down into the soil and water. We still do not understand that we should not foul our own nest, or relegate the hard work of sustaining our lives to cheap labor elsewhere. It is not through the pain and degradation of others that I want to enjoy ease and comfort. Furthermore, as you may notice, the consequences of these actions are starting to be felt higher and higher up the chain of prosperity. Where do the consequences stop? At the break between the less fortunate and the extravagantly wealthy, a divide which gets wider by the day. But do you wish to be a slave to these interests, which do not have your interests at heart? Why? When the choice comes down to your life or their monetary gain, rest assured it will be "just business".
All in all, I realize that this issue is much too big for me to make too much of a difference. But I have to try, if only to be able to die without embarrassment. Perhaps I am too sensitive. But that is the way I see things.