Food for Thought at the San Francisco Green Film Festival

Kermit the Frog sang that “It’s not easy being green.” But it is getting easier, as more people become aware of the small things they can do to make the world a healthier place for all of us. This weekend will be a busy one for film lovers, who will find themselves running between the Castro, hosting the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and the Roxie, where the fifth San Francisco Green Film Festival will be entertaining and challenging audiences with a wide range of movies about our planet, the environment and what we can do to make this the best possible world to live in. That does not mean a selection preaching to the choir, but works of art that lead us to think creatively and positively while inspiring us to make a difference, even with the smallest actions we take.

SFGreenFilmFestivalPosterThere are 60 films from 26 countries this year, with many filmmakers appearing in person. A large number of the movies are concerned with what we eat and drink, so logically EatDrinkFilms wants to focus on those movies. And several play on into the week, after the SF Silent fest has ended.

Let’s start out with a program of short films called Food for Thought, a selection of edible stories that travel from backyards, fields, and oceans all the way to your plate—because we love food. EatDrinkFilms is proud to be the sponsor of this 1:30 p.m. show on Saturday, May 30 at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.

Man in the Maze

Man in the Maze

The show includes Man in the Maze , which explores a diverse group of people across the US coming up with innovative solutions to mend our broken food system. In Oakland Originals: Asiya Wadud , you will meet the founder of Forage Oakland, who was drawn to the irresistible bounty of fruit growing over fences and sidewalks in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood—much of it going to waste. Asiya’s community barter network brings neighbors together to build stronger communities while harvesting and sharing the riches of their own backyards. Mushroom chaser Madison McClintock has directed an ode to nature’s often forgotten alchemists and their allies.


Oakland Originals: Asiya Wadud

Fungiphilia Rising is an invitation to explore the fascinating world of mushrooms throughout the American West. By attending mushroom forays and fungus festivals, talking to scores of individuals from mycologists to artists, businessmen to locovore chefs, Fungiphilia Rising  paints a vivid image of the secret life of mushrooms and its admirers. The film features Larry Evans, the infamous mushroom man from Missoula, MT; Peter McCoy, founder of the up and coming Radical Mycology social movement; David Rust, president of the North American Mycological Association; Cathy Cripps, well-known professional mycologist; Anthony Strong, head chef at San Francisco’s world-renowned Locanda restaurant; and Jim Stillwell, a secretive Portland-based mushroom forager.

APassionofGoldandFireIn Food , eaters from around the world talk about their relationship with food, brought to life with “edible characters” in stop-motion animation. Sebastien Pins introduces us to a beekeeper who shares his worries about the future of his apiary school in A Passion of Gold and Fire—a passion that definitely helps our environment keep on living. Seeding a Dream presents a famously fertile piece of land that had produced food for centuries—it once boasted its own store—and had been protected with an agricultural easement, ensuring that it could never be developed into house lots; but there was no guarantee that it would ever be actively farmed again. With the financial help of the landowner, young farmers Ben and Taryn Marcus revitalize the farm and transform the store into a thriving community food hub; yet they live with little security to show for all their toil. Understanding the value that young farmers bring to our communities, and the challenges these farmers face, the film offers a look at an inspiring future for small food entrepreneurs. Singing seals bring attention to the need to protect our oceans in the stop-motion animation short Ain’t No Fish , with music from Hoagy Carmichael.

Food for Thought, Food for Life . Credit: Annabelle Braithwaite

Food for Thought, Food for Life . Credit: Annabelle Braithwaite

We want our food fast, convenient and cheap, but at what cost? As farms have become super-sized, our environment suffers and so does the quality of our food. Susan Rockefeller’s Food for Thought, Food for Life explains the downsides of current agribusiness practices, and also introduces us to farmers, chefs, researchers, educators, and advocates who are providing solutions. The film is both poetic and practical; its powerful examination of the connections between our planet and our well-being is accompanied by specific strategies that protect both. With an eye towards a sustainable and abundant future, it offers inspiration for communities that are ready to make a difference.

The screening is followed by a discussion with:

  • Jesse Ash, director, Man in the Maze
    • Jim McSilver, director,Oakland Originals
    Gary Meyer of EatDrinkFilms(moderator)
    • Daphne Miller, M.D., author of Farmacology  (in Food For Thought, Food For Life )
    • Beth Poague, co-producer, Food For Thought, Food for Life
    • David Rust, Bay Area Mycological Society (in Fungiphilia Rising )
    • Siqi Song, director, Food
    • Anthony Strong, Chef, Locanda (in Fungiphilia Rising )
    • Debbie Viess, Bay Area Mycological Society (in Fungiphilia Rising )

Here are some other highlights from this year’s San Francisco Green Film Festival, in the order they screen—

In Racing to Zero , garbage takes on a whole new life. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee pledged to achieve zero waste by 2020. Going behind the scenes, the film meets the inventive and enthusiastic characters across the city who are turning trash into resources. The city already recycles, composts and reuses a huge 80% of its garbage. But there’s more to do. Racing to Zero presents an inspiring blueprint for change across America—you are guaranteed to learn amazing things going on where we live, and meet heroes whose innovations are an inspiration for all generations. Friday, May 29; 8:30 p.m.; Roxie Theater.

Post-screening discussion with:

  • Diana Fuller, producer
    • Mike Biddle, CEO, iAQ Systems Inc
    • Robert Haley, Zero Waste Manager, San Francisco Department of the Environment
    • Max Good and Tyler Trumbo, directors, Dry Season(short).

That Sugar Film chronicles one man’s journey to discover the bitter truth about sugar. Damon Gameau, an Australian television and film actor, embarks on a unique experiment to document the effects of a high-sugar diet on a healthy body, consuming only foods that are commonly perceived as “healthy.” Through this entertaining and informative journey, Damon highlights some of the issues that plague the sugar industry, and where sugar lurks on supermarket shelves. That Sugar Film  will forever change the way you think about “healthy” food. Sunday, May 31; 5:30 p.m.; Roxie Theater.

That Sugar Film: Post-screening discussion with:

  • Damon Gameau, director (via Skype)
    • Christina Goette, Director, Shape Up SF
    • Sarah Fine, Director, The Bigger Picture; project director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at SFGH
    • Alexandre Juruena, Director, Anim!Arte; director, Pseudo Evolution (short)

Year after year, for an eight-month period that seems endless, thousands of families move to a desert in India to extract the whitest salt from the burning earth. With every monsoon, their salt fields are washed away. And still they return. The award-winning film My Name is Salt  is an observational documentary about people striving for perfection, and their devotion to work. In her debut feature, Farida Pacha has created a lyrical and poetic portrait of what it takes to live and work in this relentless landscape. Sunday, May 31; 6 p.m.; Little Roxie Theater.

Rice is fundamental to Taiwanese diets. But as water contamination increases, farmers’ efforts are no longer being rewarded with golden paddy and delicate rice. Making its US premiere, Black  shows the increasing tension between industry and agriculture as wastewater pollution infiltrates the rice fields. Filmmaker Ke Chin-Yuan reveals the hopes and fears of elderly farmers who can only bring their rice back to life if violations are enforced and a secure source of clean water is brought back to their fields. Monday, June 1; 8:15 p.m.; Little Roxie Theater.

The Danish Red is a rare breed of cattle, and Niels Stokholm, who is approaching 80, has made it his life’s mission to save it. Supplying the world’s best restaurant, NOMA, Niels runs his biodynamic farm according to the idea that man and earth are fundamentally connected to the universe. But his pact with the universe does not live up to the rules laid down by the authorities. In Good Things Await , Phie Ambo documents the calm rhythm of farm life, Stokholm’s musings, and visits by farm inspectors and supporters alike. Her intimate method of filming—one woman, one camera, no lightning – allows her to blend in with her surroundings, thus getting very close to her subjects without disturbing the natural pace of the situation. This allows us to follow Stokholm’s struggle to make sure that he is not the last to do agriculture in this way, but one of the first. Ambo will participate in a post-screening discussion via Skype. Monday, June 1, 8:30 p.m.; Roxie Theater. Post-screening discussion with director Phie Ambo (via Skype).

An Omnivorous Family’s Dilemma  takes place against the backdrop of a nationwide slaughter of livestock in Korea to tackle foot-and-mouth disease. Filmmaker Hwang Yun witnesses hundreds of pigs buried alive in a neighborhood farm and begins a journey to learn more about pigs, animal welfare and becoming vegetarian. As she develops a bond with the lovely pigs and acknowledges another side of the farm and meat industry, it becomes more difficult for her to enjoy pork cutlets. This is not a simple decision in Korea, and her husband and young son, Do-young, do not make her choice of daily menus easier. This is a film of discovery: revealing the impacts of intensive pig farming and the personal implications of our food choices. Tuesday, June 2; 8:30 p.m.; Roxie Theater. Post-screening discussion with director Hwang Yun (via Skype) and Katie Cantrell of the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition.

Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story finds filmmakers and food lovers Jen Rustemeye and Grant Baldwin (The Clean Bin Project ) diving into the issue of waste from farm, through retail, all the way to the back of their own fridge. After realizing the billions of dollars of good food that is tossed away, they pledge to quit grocery shopping and survive only on foods that would otherwise be thrown away. Featuring interviews with farmers, retailers, and authors Tristram Stuart and Jonathan Bloom, Just Eat It  looks at our systemic obsession with perfect produce and reveals the devastating global consequences. Tuesday, June 2; 7:00 p.m.; Goldman Theater, David Brower Center.

Post-screening discussion with:

  • Ruben E. Canedo, Coordinating Chair, UC Berkeley Food Security Committee; co-chair of the UC System Global Food Initiative Food Access and Security Committee.
  • Kevin Connelly, Associate Director, Earth Island Institute (moderator)
  • Dana Frasz, Founder & Director, Food Shift
  • Dana Gunders, Staff Scientist, Food & Agriculture Program, NRDC

Panel produced by students at UC Berkeley SERC (Student Environmental Resource Center) in association with SFGFF’s Youth Leadership Program.


Thursday, May 28 through Wednesday, June 3. Full information, advance tickets and trailers for many of the films can be found here.

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