In the spirit of Super Size Me and Food, Inc. comes another “you are what you eat, and what you eat is crap” documentary, only this one’s outfitted with a pencil-thin mustache and a little organic beret. While the French film boasts an imposing title, there’s nothing revolutionary about a meandering documentary that’s pretty disappointing for a supposedly shocking food exposé.
- Director: Jean-Paul Jaud
- Writer: Jean-Paul Jaud
- Producers: Jean-Paul Jaud, Beatrice Jaud
In a small village set against the picturesque mountains of France, the town’s mayor embarks on an experiment and swaps out the school’s lunch menu with organic, locally grown fare. The students’ experience with organic food is interspersed with interviews featuring farmers, scientists, researchers and parents, with sobering facts about pesticides, chemicals and their adverse health side effects sprinkled in for good measure.
- The setting: Nobody’s going to argue against the beauty of the French countryside, and this documentary captures the charm of small town living against a scenic backdrop of rolling hills, lush greenery, old farmhouses and worn brick buildings.
- (some of) The facts: The movie drops a lot of truth bombs (or bombes de vérité, if you will) in the viewer’s lap that are hard to shake. “What’s that, you say? In France the number of cancers in males has increased by 93% in 25 years, and in Europe, 40% of cancers are linked to food? Merde sainte!” Unfortunately, these facts begin to lose their luster when it becomes apparent that the documentary is throwing out statistics without bothering to dive deeper into what makes them so fascinating.
- The farmers: Both organic and “traditional” farmers are featured all too briefly yet provide some of the most interesting information in the film. One organic farmer’s demonstration of pesticide-soaked soil vs. dirt that’s chemical-free is fascinating and proves to be a highlight of the movie. If only the documentary featured more from the farmers’ point of view…
- The pacing: Food Beware clocks in at an innocuous 112 minutes, yet the documentary drags along as if we’re simultaneously waiting for organic corn to grow and ripen in real time.
- The lack of visuals: Clearly the French haven’t caught onto the US’s penchant for “shock and awe” storytelling, because the documentary is disappointingly lacking when it comes to visuals that can incite a strong emotional reaction from the viewer. While the film is chock full of stats that scrawl across the screen, we all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps going organic would seem more revolutionary if we saw the visual effect pesticides and harmful additives can have on our health and lifestyles.
While interest in organic food and healthy food production has been growing in recent years, Food Beware: The Organic French Revolution ends up serving too many stats and 1st person accounts and falls short in delivering a truly visual impact of how processed foods are harmful to our health. The movie doesn’t unearth a whole lot of information we don’t already know, except that apparently French children really enjoy spring onion salads (who knew?). While the town’s experiment seems interesting on paper, it ends up posing more questions than answers and leaves the viewer with a hunger that organic couscous can’t quite satiate. To paraphrase The Simpsons, you don’t win friends with salad, and you won’t win viewers with a doc that’s just le meh.
Food Beware: The Organic French Revolution opened October 16th at New York’s Quad Cinema.
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