“Americans fear only one thing: inconvenience,” Fresh warns us as it makes the case for sustainable agriculture through academic experts, organic farmers, and other “real people” who dare speak truth to industrialized power. The documentary lays bare the real cost of supposedly cheap food (the environment, our bodies, the exploitation of the underemployed), making it easy to justify getting the five-dollar organic eggs over the 79-cent cage-kept ones. Most importantly, it indicates a present zeitgeist refreshingly distant from the neo-liberal paranoia born on September 12th. Intellectuals and farm boys’ unabashed exposure to America’s Frankensteinian self-destruction hovering over hyper-productivity isn’t muffled by the mobs chanting “unpatriotic!” anymore. Even the ABC network seems to have no qualms about calling out “real America” on its culinary idiocy with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution USA, a show about a British chef intent on changing how Americans eat (good luck) while serving up hard evidence of their international reputation of being provincial buffoons.
Fresh prefers to focus on the few who are doing it right, instead of parading the overweight bodies we already know. But somehow these exposés no longer feel like angry vegan indie fare, but part of the neo-family values holism. As if french fries became bipartisan at last.
As is the case with most blatantly one-sided documentaries, the film can feel like one long in-house advertisement (something you might watch for your Whole Foods employment training), and its depiction of “people who make a difference” can verge on hagiology. It also doesn’t pay much attention to the fact that the food consciousness lower income folk may acquire will never translate into real-world currency. But Fresh is ultimately a necessary genealogy of the “we are what we eat” cliché, a welcome reminder of how eating is the inadvertent daily exercise of politics.