Food + Farm Fest: A Feast of Films

by Gary Meyer

ffff logoThe Food + Farm Film Fest starts its third year at the Roxie Theatre in San Francisco on Friday night with a program of 18 knockout short films that run the gamut of emotions, both entertaining and informing us. The programmers Mischa Nachtigal and Sarah Nelson screened hundreds of works, and as with past opening nights they once again have found the cream of the crop, so to speak. The problem is that if you don’t have a ticket, the show is sold out. You might take a chance on last-minute no-shows, or enjoy a trip up to Monte Rio this summer, when the program of shorts will be presented at the Rio Theatre.

But fear not … Saturday and Sunday are jammed with terrific movies, all worth your attendance. There will be food pairings with each program.

The festival directors discuss how the fest came to be, their film selection process, and much more here.

Inhabit kicks off Saturday in perfect Earth Day fashion at 4 p.m. with a fast-moving exploration of Permaculture that offered me so much information and inspiration I look forward to seeing it again to develop a plan of action in my backyard.

“All we need to live a good life surrounds us. Sun, wind, people, buildings, stones, sea, birds and plants. Cooperation with all these things brings harmony; opposition to them brings disaster and chaos,” wrote Bill Mollison, co-founder of Permaculture. “It is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.”

Those putting it into practice in the movie show us ecological designs that develop regenerative agricultural systems by mimicking natural ecosystems. We first visit farms and forests to see it in practice. Next we move to places where families buy the most unlikely suburban homes, with a realistic vision for producing healthy crops and abundant food. When many people in the community come together, the results are exciting. Visits to East Coast cities reveal projects like roof gardens or an abandoned gas station turned into a garden bursting with new life. I loved the rain garden in Camden, New Jersey where local kids designed and built waterways that redirect floods from streets to create wonderfully lush escapes from the urban landscape. There is an especially memorable moment as a boy rides a stationary bike to create the power to water plants.

Pandora-Thomas Though the movie mostly concentrates on the Northeast, Bay Area activist and teacher Pandora Thomas makes a strong impact as we see her working on two of her many projects: Black Permaculture Network and Pathways 2 Resilience, with both students and formerly incarcerated individuals. Permaculture can be a path to future success.

Over a dozen stories give hope and help us realize that we can make an impact growing delicious fresh food and flora while healing the earth and letting nature nurture itself.

We are asked, “How can we as a species really adapt to the way the earth works?” and are challenged with the thought-provoking statement, “Permaculture is dependent on the prospects of us doing good, not just in doing less bad. The modern environmental movement has been too much of that self-image of us being bad. We must turn that around and concentrate on doing good.”

The screening will be introduced by Christopher Shein, an East Bay California permaculture designer, landscaper, gardener and author.

tampopo-ramenKale Chips will be served.

EatDrinkFilms is proud to be a co-presenter of Inhabit.

Tampopo is hard to see on the big screen. After the untimely death of director Juzo Itami, various rights expired, and other than bootleg videos, it has all but disappeared—until this weekend, when there will be a rare screening at 7 p.m. Often called a “spaghetti eastern,” Tampopo is a satirical look at the connections between food and sex. You won’t easily forget a widow at her Tokyo restaurant attempting to make the perfect bowl of ramen with a cowboy-hat wearing truck driver. The movie is filled with hilarious vignettes and slurping good eating.

EastsideThe screening is at 7 p.m. Ramen from Aedan Fermented Foods will be served.

East Side Sushi is a terrific family “dramedy” about a young Latina who wants to become a sushi chef. It is full of surprises, wonderful food scenes and a cast of superb young actors. Bay Area director Anthony Lucero works in visual effects at Industrial Light and Magic while making shorts and documentaries. This is his first feature, and he is a talent to watch.

The film is beautifully shot in Oakland, and features another talent who has a bright future, lead actress Diana Elizabeth Torres. The Hollywood Reporter says, “Mouthwatering food photography will likely have Japanese cuisine fans quickly heading for the nearest sushi bar after watching the movie. “ And you can go to Coach Sushi on Grand Avenue in Oakland, where much of the film was made. East Side Sushi has been winning audience awards worldwide, and hopefully will have a regular release soon, but you can catch it now.

The screening starts at 9:30 p.m., with spicy tuna rolls from TwoXSea.

Forgiving Earth

Sunday begins with a powerful selection of shorts called The Forgiving Earth: Food Justice & Urban Agriculture at 4 p.m. Eight movies explore how food and farming can play a role in helping communities heal from social, racial and economic injustices.

At NeedleFrom Oakland comes the prize-winning At Needle Point, poetry at its most powerful. Better Chicken asks for compassion in the chicken industry. #Plant4PeaceSTL follows a day in Ferguson that brings people together and promotes peace by planting trees. Hunger in India is a short animated film designed to spread awareness about food insecurity, malnutrition and related issues in the Indian context. Dear Dilla from hip-hop artist Phife Dawg is a music video tribute to his friend and music producer J Dilla, who died from a rare diabetes blood disease.

kombit Kombit takes us to Haiti, where internally displaced people start a micro-garden movement to combat post-earthquake hunger and despair. The Last Scream finds a French couple dumpster diving for perfectly good food. The Forgiving Earth documents the voices of Detroit’s 21st century urban farmers, working against all odds to transform the bankrupt city into a reborn “green and pleasant land.” Each voice in the film tells a singular story of restoring the earth in order to overcome the effects of drug abuse, incarceration, racism, injustice, poverty, or neglect—resulting in every garden in the city being an autobiography. Ultimately, the voices converge in a chorus of private dreams, public outrage and hopes for Detroit’s regrowth.

The 4 p.m. screening will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by SPUR’s Eli Zigas, with Doria Robinson of Urban Tilth, Doron Comercho of LifeLab, Cat Chang of the Oakland Food Policy Council, and Jamie DeWolf of The Bigger Picture Project.

Salad from Alemany Farm will be served.

general-tsoHave you ever gone to a Chinese restaurant and wondered, “Who the hell is General Tso, and why was a chicken dish named after him?”

Filmmaker Ian Cheney (King Corn, The City Dark) wanted to find out, and traveled around the world to solve the mystery for his film The Search for General Tso. This search for the truth about the iconic menu item uncovers surprises, laughs and a lot of different takes on the dish itself. He goes to Shanghai, where few people have heard of it. After tracing Tso’s life in the Qing Dynasty, the movie offers a fascinating look at Chinese immigration to America. Interviews include Cecilia Chang of The Mandarin in San Francisco, Chef Peng Chang-kuei, who invented the dish in China, and David Leong, who is responsible for the westernized version.

General Tso’s Chicken from Mister Jiu’s will be served at the 7 p.m. showing.

Horizontal RuleGoing Deeper

Permaculture co-founder Bill Mollison’s many books may be ordered from local bookstores, or via Amazon or Indiebound.

Videos of his lectures and courses are here.

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