Saturday, September 10, 2005

We Feed the World

We Feed the World, by filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer, had its world premiere at the festival. The film, two years in the making, takes a look at the production of food and the effects on it from globalization and commercialization.

The film is divided up into sections, each of which focuses on a different part of the industry. It jumps from fishermen in Brittany, to massive greenhouse operations in Spain, to the use of hybrid seeds in eastern Europe, to the production of soya in Brazil, to chicken production in Europe, and finally to Switzerland, the home of Nestle, the biggest food corporation in the world.
Each section talks about the challenges facing people and the impact felt around the world. There is no narration; the people interviewed in the film simply tell their stories and give their opinions.

There is the fisherman in Brittany, talking about the effect of European Union regulations on his livelihood. There is the senior manager with agriculture giant Pioneer, who gives his own personal views at odds with the company line. And then there is the CEO of Nestle, who matter-of-factly states his own opinions about food which may seem shocking to many. Interspersed are interviews with a food expert from the UN who provides insight into how the things shown in the film are affecting, often adversely, people around the world.

The movie is not overly didactic, but it does cause you to think about how the food you eat is produced and how so many people in the world can be starving when so much food is produced and wasted in the industrialized world.

Erwin Wagenhofer attended the screening and did a Q&A after the movie:

  • When asked about how or what we should even eat, Wagenhofer said you should think about where your food comes from and how it is produced, and buy locally-produced food.
  • Asked how he managed to secure the interviews, especially with people who might not normally participate in such a documentary, Wagenhofer said the first time he approaches someone, he never brings a camera. In fact, he doesn't for the first 4 or 5 times, by which time people see he is not out to make fun of them, and they eventually agree to be filmed.
  • When asked about the comments the head of Nestle, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, makes, Wagenhofer said that he believes those are Brabeck's actual feelings about the subject, and that he probably would not be upset about the film in any way.
  • Why food? Wagenhofer said that food is something close to everyone, that everyone has to eat every day.
  • On his next project, Wagenhofer couldn't say what it is, other than it is a step forward from this film.
  • The film was finished only one month ago.
  • When asked what we should take from this film, Wagenhofer said the film is called "We Feed the World", not "They Feed the World," meaning that we are all part of the system, and that it is up to "us" to change it, as "they" have no desire to.


My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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