Student - March 24, 2011

Refreshing new angles on food dilemmas

The first few shots raise expectations of yet another worthy educational documentary about where our food comes from. An armadillo flees from the chainsaw in the Brazilian hardwood forest. The surrounding vegetation is set alight - first some grass, then a bush, then another. And before long we see dozens of hectares burning. A painful sight, as we have just been shown that the Amazon forest is being felled so that Brabant pigs can be fed on cheap soya.

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photo: .

But Smakelijk eten! is not a one-sided documentary in the style of Michael Moore or Al Gore. The film offers a subtler portrait of the soya farmer than you might expect. We see his kids at play and him as a hardworking man who is doing his best for his family. The ground is being put to better use than it was when there were tree on it, he says. 'Now we are producing food. And soya beans are nature too. We are harvesting from the nature we have created ourselves.'
This film effectively makes the link between our food and the conflicts that its production creates. It keeps coming back to two Dutch cooks who are preparing a meal to the serene sound of Mozart's Don Giovanni. They are using three main ingredients: shrimps, sugar snaps and a suckling pig.
We trace the shrimps back to rival fish producers in the Philippines, where local fishermen have to compete with a wealthy fish farmer. In search of the origin of the sugar snaps, we go to plantations in Kenya where the crop is irrigated with water from the Ngiro river. Result: dead cows in a dry riverbed a few kilometres downstream.
Back to the soya plantations in Brazil. The scorched forests are threatening the livelihood of the local Xingu Indians. Dreadful, but the most startling images in the film are those of their visit to the supermarket. Tempted by all the tasty looking stuff on the shelves, they load their trolleys full. Exactly like us, the filmmaker seems to be saying.
Smakelijk eten! is showing at the Heerenstraattheater in Wageningen and the Focustheater in Arnhem

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