Movie Review — GOOD FOOD
“I hope the film will help generate grass-roots solutions.”
-Producer Melissa Young
As the world breaks into rioting from hunger, Moving Images appears with the film, GOOD FOOD and puts the spotlight on the tip of a different kind of iceberg. Producers Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin bring the personal stories of a variety of local farmers, organizations and restaurants into direct communication with urban foodies. The film breaks apart the illusion, cast by corporate controlled media, that there is any benefit to the centralized, industrial food system. GOOD FOOD highlights the ingenuity, integrity and respect of the sustainable food movement in the Pacific Northwest.
GOOD FOOD demonstrates how interaction in a local food web provides us with practical solutions in every aspect of society: health, environment, local and global economies, education, science and community. Through the voices of Doc and Connie Hatfield, founders of Oregon Country Natural Beef, other farmers, restaurants and organizations we see first hand how love for good food brings people together, providing opportunities to create good healthy food for everyone.
Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin founded Moving Images in 1987, and have been on the cutting edge of social activism for more than 20 years. They consistently bring to public attention a wide variety of social, economic, environmental and global trends and issues. Their films range from international movements, such as the World Social Forum (Another World is Possible, 2002), to the people taking back Argentina (Argentina-Turning Around, 2007) to US globalization through biotechnology (Environment Under Fire, 1988; Risky Business, 1996).
When I requested an interview, Melissa invited me to their local pre-screening of a few clips from GOOD FOOD to raise funds to finish editing for the premier at the Mukilteo Coffee roasting house on Whidbey Island. Out on the terrace friendly farmers from South Whidbey Tilth were selling locally grown greens, tomato plants and other herbs. On one side of the warehouse a huge coffee roaster filled the room with the rich aroma of coffee. In the center a long wooden table held tasty treats: a delicious salad of an ancient variety of wheat, Emmer, grown by Brooke and Sam Lacy, who we meet in the film, crostini with coffee braised pasture-fed beef from Loren and Patti Imes, created by Chef Jess Dowdell of Hedgbrook Farm, bowls of dark salad greens grown by South Whidbey Tilth farmers and squash grown by Dale Sherman made into a delicious soup by Chef Charlie Durham of the Sandpoint Grill, just to name a few. The meal was orchestrated by Whidbey’s Slow Food group and provided deliciously physical examples of exactly how connections are made when you know who your food is coming from.
When everyone had a plate of food, Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin introduced their film. In doing so, they were actually introducing the extended sustainable community of the Northwest. As a result they directed our focus to the farmers, musicians and the wider community behind the film. “Our focus is social justice and environment. We rely on friends and neighbors for the music and narrators of our films.” All of the music in the film is by local Northwest musicians.
“We are in the middle of a climate change,” Melissa tells us, “we need to think about the changes that are coming and the changes that we need to make.” GOOD FOOD triggers inspiration and connection through the stories and examples of farmers who juggle the daily demands of farming in a manner that is respectful of soil and water.
The discussion that followed after the group watched several clips provided an excellent indicator of the success of the film. A teacher requested the help of the local farming community to teach the students about farming and the Whidbey Island Nourishes program, who provide paper-bag lunches for people who are food insecure, suggested planting an extra row as a donation. Mike Hearl from the Whidbey Slow Food group offered the recipes from the food of the evening and stressed the importance of attending farmers markets regularly so farmers can have a good idea of what to plan for. It was great to see the powerful motivational tool that Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin were creating in motion. The film provides a common focus for bringing local community together to share food and ideas.
Both Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin come from activist backgrounds, Mark did some of his first editing on the original equipment at 911 media in 1977. Melissa got involved in film while working with Mark on a video of a school building project in rural Nicaragua (Vamos A Hacer Un Pais, 1986). Soon after, they formed Moving Images: Television in the Public Interest. Moving Images makes films about things that people should know about but that is not being covered by mainstream media.
In making GOOD FOOD they asked the farmers, organizations, local businesses and individuals involved in food and farming to tell their own stories. By capturing the joy, creativity, and love these people have for their work Mark and Melissa highlight the deep connections created through food, both to the earth and to other people. This respect, both for their audience and for, as Melissa puts it, “the wisdom of regular people in interpreting their own experience” fills the film making it inspirational and well rooted.
Moving Images’ basic respect for people stands in total contrast to industrial and large scale multinational corporations which consider the only value of the public is as a consumer, to be studied and manipulated. Remembering a film depicting the massacre of people in El Salvador, which left her feeling hopeless, Melissa explains where her focus on respect and motivation originated from. “Such images leave no room for action. Critical times and times of real crisis,” she says, “also provide a time of great opportunity to think and work together.” Their other recent film, Argentina Turning Around also vividly portrays the benefits of taking personal responsibility for your environment and community.
Even though I had seen first hand a perfect example of fund-raising, I asked Melissa for any other advice on promoting socially conscious media, she responded; “Even with twenty years of experience this is a difficult area, but it is very helpful to have a connection to a non-profit organization so that people donating can get a tax write off. Fund raising for making a film is a bit like farming. You have a lot of up front expenses, have to invest lots of time and money and hope that it will come back. I can’t recommend this for someone who wants to get rich…but what an interesting life!”