The recent proliferation of documentaries detailing the world’s ills has been at once encouraging and disheartening. Encouraging since their increasing numbers indicate a growing awareness of the forces threatening our planet’s continued survival; disheartening because, taken as a whole, this overwhelming mass of movies, combined with their penchant to strike a (not unjustified) tone of pessimism, is enough to drive all but the most committed activists into a defeatist funk. Fortunately, Jean-Paul Jaud’s Food Beware, a look at the organic food movement in France, is more concerned with focusing on solutions than in simply sounding the alarm. Chronicling the efforts of Barjac, a Provencal farming community, to institute a town-wide program of responsible eating, the film takes us inside the central cafeteria where organic food is prepared for the local schools, visits the gardens where the children plant vegetables and outlines a culture of mutual responsibility in which everyone works to ensure each other’s healthy lifestyle. Of course, before moving onto solutions, Jaud must detail the problems, and the early part of the film is replete with factoids outlining the links between pesticides and cancers. And even as the film continues, the director is not above calling on certain rhetorical strategies to drive home his polemical points: cross-cutting between a non-organic farmer decrying the ability of organic farming to feed the whole world and an authoritative quotation that contradicts him or interviewing a farmer’s wife who explains how a neighbor can’t urinate for a week after treating his fields. But the operative mode here is observational, and Jaud devotes most of his time watching Barjac in action, frequently focusing on the schoolchildren who stand most to benefit from the long-term effects of better nutrition. And while occasionally these observations tend too much toward the tangential (as when a group of kids try to sell brioches to two old men and end up singing them a song), they mostly succeed in establishing the viability of Barjac’s unique program. The only question that remains is how sustainable such a program might be when transplanted to a city with more than 1,400 people.
- First Run Features
- 112 min
- Jean-Paul Jaud
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