By Danielle Nierenberg and Katie Howell
While COVID-19 is exposing fundamental flaws in the global food and agriculture system, it is creating the opportunity to reimagine honoring farmers and food workers and producing healthy, nutritious food. The virus is forcing people to press pause on their daily lives, so Food Tank has compiled a list of 34 movies and series to watch from home that remind us of the power of food.
1. 10 Billion – What’s on Your Plate? (2015)<p>By 2050, the global population is expected to hit 10 billion. This documentary from German film director Valentin Thurn looks at how we could feed that world. The film explores food production and distribution, analyzing potential solutions to meet the enormous demand on the global agriculture system. The most-viewed film in German cinemas in 2015, "10 Billion — What's on Your Plate?" provides a broad look into the issues in current food production and offers a glimpse of hope through innovation.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube</em></p>
2. Always Be My Maybe (2019)<p>"Always Be My Maybe" is a romantic comedy that follows a successful chef named Sasha as she reunites with her childhood best friend as an adult. During her stay in San Francisco to open a new restaurant, Sasha, played by Ali Wong, and her old friend rediscover their connection though eating, and she remembers the influence her friend's family had on her love of cooking. "Always Be My Maybe" shows Sasha's journey as she falls in love and reconnects to her Asian American culture.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Netflix</em></p>
3. A Tale of Two Kitchens (2019)<p>"A Tale of Two Kitchens" is about two restaurants — Cala in San Francisco and Contramar in Mexico City — owned and operated by acclaimed Mexican chef Gabriela Cámara. The film tells the stories of the restaurants' staff, alternating between personal accounts and shots of employees interacting with customers and preparing meals. "A Tale of Two Kitchens" offers an inspiring look into how people find personal and professional growth in the restaurant industry and how restaurants can become second homes for those that work in them.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Netflix</em></p>
4. Barbecue (2017)<p>Embarking on a journey across 12 countries, "Barbecue" tells a story of the culture behind grilling meat and how it brings people together. The film offers a portrait of those who stoke the flames, showing that barbecue is not just about the meat, but about the rituals, stories, and traditions that surround the process. "Barbecue" won the James Beard Award for Best Documentary in 2018.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play</em></p>
5. Before the Plate (2018)<p>Filmmaker Sagi Kahane-Rapport documents John Horne, Canadian chef and owner of the prestigious Toronto restaurant Canoe, as he follows each ingredient from one dish back to the farm they came from. "Before the Plate" offers a look into what it takes to grow and distribute food and the issues farmers face in today's food system. </p><p><em>Where to watch it: YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Video</em></p>
6. Caffeinated (2015)<p>Working with coffee connoisseur Geoff Watts, this film explores the life cycle of a coffee seed, following the process from bean to mug. The film focuses on the social and cultural landscape around coffee and how it shapes the lives of thousands of individuals worldwide. "Caffeinated" filmmakers interview coffee farmers, roasters, and baristas to provide a comprehensive idea of all that goes into a cup of coffee.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Google Play</em></p>
7. Cesar Chavez (2014)<p>"Cesar Chavez" is a biographical film that reconstructs the emergence of the United Farm Workers (UFW) in the 1960s. The film focuses on Chavez, co-founder of the UFW, whose commitment to secure a living wage for farm workers ignited social justice movements across America. The film inspired a<a href="http://www.takepart.com/follow-your-food/index.html" target="_blank"> "Follow Your Food"</a> series by Participant Media and the Equitable Food Initiative as well as won an ALMA Award for Special Achievement in Film.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play</em></p>
8. Chef Flynn (2018)<p>"Chef Flynn" tells the story of Flynn McGarry, who became famous after running a fully functional kitchen in his bedroom at age 10. The film chronicles McGarry as he outgrows his bedroom kitchen and sets out to join New York City's innovative culinary scene. With a focus on the relationship McGarry has with his mother, "Chef Flynn" shows how far McGarry was able to go with the support and dedication of his family.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Hulu, Google Play, YouTube</em></p>
9. Chef’s Table (2015- )<p>From David Gelb, the filmmaker that created "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," comes "Chef's Table," a series that profiles professional chefs around the world. Each episode of "Chef's Table" spotlights a different chef as they share the personal stories that have inspired their culinary ventures. The series has won a variety of awards, including a James Beard Foundation Award and an International Documentary Association Award.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Netflix</em></p>
10. Cooked (2016- )<p>"Cooked" is a series based on Michael Pollan's book by the same name. In each episode, Pollan focuses on a different natural element — fire, water, air, and earth — and its relationship to cooking methods throughout history. "Cooked" brings together different aspects of cooking to show its ability to connect us all as human beings.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Netflix</em></p>
11. Dolores (2017)<p>"Dolores" documents the life of Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the first farm workers union, United Farm Workers (UFW). Filmmaker Peter Bratt chronicles Huerta's life from her childhood in Stockton, California, to her work with UFW and becoming a leading figure in the feminist movement. Huerta has often not been credited for her equal role in establishing UFW; "Dolores" argues this is because Huerta is a woman, and the film strives to spotlight her heroic efforts in the fight for social justice.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Google Play, YouTube</em></p>
12. Eating Animals (2017)<p>Based on the 2009 book <em>Eating Animals</em> by Jonathan Safran Foer, filmmaker Christopher Quinn examines factory farming and its associated negative environmental and public health effects. "Eating Animals" spotlights farmers, activists, and innovators who are raising awareness about where our meat comes from and standing up to big companies to tell their stories.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play, Hulu</em></p>
13. Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table (2017)<p>In the 1940's, New Orleans' food and drink business generated less than US$1 million a year; today it is a billion-dollar industry that attracts tourists from around the world to the city. Many credit the transformation to the Brennan family, guided by Ella Brennan. "Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table" tells the story of Ella Brennan and how she revolutionized creole cuisine and helped push it into American mainstream dining culture.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Apple TV, Commanderspalace.com</em></p>
14. El Susto! (2020)<p>"El Susto!" tells the story of a sugar tax in Mexico, implemented in an attempt to curb the prevalence of diabetes. The film documents the battle between public health activists and the corporate wealth of the "Big Soda" industry, offering a look into the reality of challenging powerful industries. The film premiers this May as part of the virtual Vermont International Film Festival.</p><p><em>Where to watch it:</em><a href="https://www.filmmovementplus.com/products/vermont-intl-film-festival-presents-el-susto" target="_blank"> <em>VIFF virtual cinema</em></a></p>
15. Farmsteaders (2018)<p>"Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his family as they try to resurrect his grandfather's dairy farm in Ohio. Once a thriving agriculture economy, Nolan's rural community has given way to the pressures of agribusiness and corporate farming — left with unused fertile farmland, abandoned buildings, and skyrocketing health issues. "Farmsteaders" gives a voice to a new generation of family farmers, showing the hardships those who grow our food are having to endure.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: POV – link through movie website</em></p>
16. Fed Up (2014)<p>Filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig and journalist Katie Couric investigate the role of the American food industry in rising obesity rates and diet-related diseases. "Fed Up" uncovers the sugar industry's influence on American dietary guidelines and argues that hidden sugar in processed foods is the root of the problem. With the tagline "Congress says pizza is a vegetable," the film shows how interactions between industry and government can directly affect the health of the nation.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Tubi, Google Play</em></p>
17. Food Chains (2014)<p>Supermarkets' buying power and farm contracts often set the substandard wages and conditions farm workers face. To improve their livelihood, <a href="http://ciw-online.org/" target="_blank">The Coalition of Immokalee Workers</a> demanded a penny more per pound of tomatoes picked. But Publix, Florida's largest grocery chain, refused. "Food Chains" follows farm workers in Immokalee, Florida, as they prepare for and launch the resulting hunger strike at Publix headquarters. The documentary aims to expose the exploitation of farm laborers and the complicity of corporations in the creation of conditions the filmmakers liken to modern-day slavery.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Tubi, YouTube</em></p>
18. For Grace (2015)<p>"For Grace" tells the story of renowned chef Curtis Duffy as he builds his dream restaurant, Grace, at a difficult time in his personal life. Filmmakers Kevin Pang and Mark Helenowski offer a look into each step in opening the luxury dining spot, Duffy's troubled past, and how he came to seek refuge in the kitchen. "For Grace" gives a bittersweet look into the restaurant industry and the sacrifice it requires.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Google Play, YouTube, Apple TV</em></p>
19. From Scratch (2020)<p>"From Scratch" follows chef, actor, and producer David Moscow as he travels worldwide making meals from scratch. Each episode begins with a chef presenting a dish that Moscow then has to hunt, gather, forage, and grow each ingredient to recreate. "From Scratch" reveals the overwhelming amount of work that brings each part of a meal into the kitchen. </p><p><em>Where to watch it: FYI</em></p>
20. In Our Hands (2017)<p>This one-hour documentary takes viewers on a journey across the fields and farms of Britain. "In Our Hands" discusses diversity of the land, the importance of generational knowledge, and the need for innovation to create a more sustainable food system. A project by Black Bark Films and the <a href="https://landworkersalliance.org.uk/" target="_blank">Landworkers Alliance</a>, the film advocates for sustainable methods and the rights of small producers through a feminist lens.</p><p> <em>Where to watch it: Vimeo</em></p>
21. Just Eat It (2014)<p>"Just Eat It" explores the enormous amount of food waste that exists in the supply chain – from farms and retail to an individual's home. The filmmakers pledge to quit grocery shopping and survive only on discarded food for six months. Featuring interviews with food waste experts and food writers, "Just Eat It" exposes the systematic obsession with perfect produce and confusing expiry dates that has ultimately cost billions of dollars in wasted food each year. The film has received multiple awards from film festivals across North America.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Tubi, Google Play</em></p>
22. Maacher Jhol (2017)<p>A Bengali film directed by Pratim D. Gupta, "Maacher Jhol" tells the story of a Paris-based chef returning to his home in Kolkata after 13 years. Challenged to cook a bowl of fish curry, a quintessential Bengali dish, the film shows the master-chef return to his roots and reconnect with his family.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Netflix</em></p>
23. Polyfaces: A World of Many Choices (2015)<p>"Polyfaces" documents the Salatins, a fourth-generation farming family, who moved from Australia to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the United States to practice regenerative farming. The film follows the family for four years as they operate Polyface Farm without chemicals and provide food to 6,000 families within a three-hour radius. "Polyfaces" shows how working with nature, not against it, is a way to reconnect to the land and to the community.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video</em></p>
24. Rotten (2018- )<p>Zero Point Zero and Netflix combined to produce "Rotten," a series that highlights the problems in the process of supplying food. With a human-centered narrative approach, each episode focuses on one food product, interviewing manufacturers, distributers, and others involved in the process. "Rotten" reveals the corruption, waste, and dangers involved with eating certain foods<em>. </em></p><p><em>Where to watch it: Netflix</em></p>
25. Salt Fat Acid Heat (2018)<p>"Salt Fat Acid Heat" follows chef and food writer Samin Nosrat as she travels the world to explore the core principles of cooking. Based on Nosrat's New York Times bestselling book of the same name, Nosrat uses each episode to travel to Italy, Japan, Mexico, and the United States, where she began her culinary career. "Salt Fat Acid Heat" helps the audience learn about each element of cooking and how to incorporate them into their own recipes.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Netflix</em></p>
26. SEED: The Untold Story (2016)<p>A winner of 18 film festival awards, "SEED: The Unknown Story" follows the story of farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers in their fight to defend seeds from the control of biotech companies. The film highlights the importance of the seed in the future of our food and presents a heartening story about the efforts to reintegrate an appreciation of seeds into our culture. "SEED" features Vandana Shiva, Dr. Jane Goodall, Andrew Kimbrell, Winona Laduke, and Raj Patel.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play</em></p>
27. Soul of a Banquet (2014)<p>"Soul of a Banquet" shows the journey of Cecilia Chiang and how she introduced America to authentic Chinese food. Chiang opened The Mandarin, her internationally renowned restaurant in San Francisco, in 1961 and has since greatly influenced the culinary scene in the United States. Through interviews with Chiang as well as Alice Waters and Ruth Reichl, the film documents Chiang's life in Beijing, her move to the United States, and how she became a restaurateur.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Hulu, Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Video</em></p>
28. Sustainable (2016)<p>"Sustainable" investigates the economic and environmental instability of the current agriculture system and the actors in the food system who are working to change this. The film presents the leadership and knowledge of some prominent sustainable farmers around the United States, like Bill Niman, Klaas Martens and John Kempf, who are challenging the country to build a more ethical agriculture system. The film offers a story of hope, with a promise that our food system can be transformed into one that is sustainable for future generations.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube</em></p>
29. That Sugar Film (2014)<p>"That Sugar Film" looks at the impact of high-sugar diets on an Aboriginal community in Australia and travels to the United States to interview the world's sugar experts. When director Damon Gameau decides to test the effects of sugar on his own health, he consumes foods commonly perceived as healthy, revealing the prevalence of sugar in each item. The film documents how sugar has become the most dominant food in the world, infiltrating both our diets and culture.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, Documentary Mania</em></p>
30. The Biggest Little Farm (2018)<p>"The Biggest Little Farm" follows John and Molly Chester for eight years as they transition from city living to a 200-acre farm. Directed by John Chester, the film shows the couple start Apricot Lane Farms and follows the farm's expansion to include multiple animals and fruit and vegetable varieties. Through their work, the Chesters find that the importance of biodiversity extends far beyond the farm.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: YouTube, Google Play</em></p>
31. The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution (2018)<p>Director Maya Gallus profiles seven female chefs as they face obstacles in a profession dominated by men. "The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution" shows how the culture of restaurant kitchens has bred toxic working conditions and how women are working to change it. Through the women's stories, the film documents the greater challenges female chefs face as they attempt to rise to the top of the restaurant industry.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Tubi, YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Video</em></p>
32. The Lunchbox (2013)<p>"The Lunchbox" tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a lonely housewife and a widower. The housewife, played by Nimrat Kaur, decides to prepare her husband creative, elaborate lunches, sending them along with a note through the famously complicated Mumbai lunch delivery system. The lunchbox ends up with the wrong man, played by the late Irrfan Khan. The housewife recognizes her mistake and sends Khan another note to apologize, starting a conversation between the two and sparking a relationship as they discuss life's joys and sorrows over the exchange of delicious meals<em>.</em></p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play</em></p>
33. Ugly Delicious (2018- )<p>"Ugly Delicious" combines travel, history, and cooking as award-winning chef David Chang takes the audience on a journal to culinary hot spots around the world. Each episode explores one dish or concept and tells the story of how it is made in different regions and how it has evolved over time. Chang brings guests, such as Jimmy Kimmel, Nick Kroll, and Peter Meehan, to join him as he celebrates different cultures through food.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Netflix</em></p>
34. Wasted! The Story of Food Waste (2017)<p>Executive-produced by the late Anthony Bourdain, filmmakers Anna Chai and Nari Kye aim to change the way people buy, cook, recycle, and eat food. "Wasted!" not only explores the effects of systematic food waste on the environment, but also offers potential solutions. The film follows some of the world's most influential chefs who create dishes from typically discarded items and features success stories from around the world. These efforts try to show the audience that any action, no matter how small, can contribute to the fight against food waste.</p><p><em>Where to watch it: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play, Vimeo</em></p>
- 7 of the Best New Documentaries About Global Warming - EcoWatch ›
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- Food Tank’s Summer 2020 Reading List - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
That salmon sitting in your neighborhood grocery store's fish counter won't look the same to you after watching Artifishal, a new film from Patagonia.
It seems like the heart of this film is fish hatcheries, which don’t get a lot of attention. What did you learn about them?<p>There's this narrative that hatcheries are a good thing. But I wanted to know where that came from because there's no other animal that I can find that's mass produced, much less by a state or a federal government, and then released into the wild. It doesn't happen.</p><p><span></span>I found the story of George Perkins Marsh, who wrote a book in 1864 called <em>Man and Nature</em> about the irreparable harm humans were having on the environment. And that was a big thing. Creeks and rivers had been so degraded by industry, dams, mills and forest practices [that] he proposed that we should restore fish. He had just heard about this technique brought over by some French guys about how to take the fish eggs and milt and combine them. And he thought that this is how we'll solve the problem — we're just going to make more fish. Within five years of the Civil War ending there were fish hatcheries all over New England.</p><p>It played on our agricultural norms — we do this for chickens, sheep, cows — of course we're going to do this for fish. But we didn't realize that fish are going into an uncontrolled environment.</p>
What are some of the risks to wild salmon from this?<p>Fast forward to today and now you have certain people who wanted to further degrade rivers, for example, people that want to develop the rivers for hydropower, and they're allowed to do that — they can dam the whole river and just put a hatchery at the bottom of it.</p><p>Hatcheries have enabled people to believe that you could control the river and still have fish.</p><p>And what we're realizing now is the science over the last 25 years says that's a completely false narrative. It's actually degrading the biological diversity.</p><p>By bringing fish into a hatchery, you're decreasing all of the natural selection that would have happened and so you're taking the fitness out. And then we started selecting certain breeds within a river, like fall-run Chinook, because it was easier and cheaper for us to produce those. But we only do that with economically viable species, not the biologically viable species. So we don't have, for example, hatcheries for lampreys, which are an important part of the ecosystem. And we don't have hatcheries for spring-run in many places or winter-run, which some rivers have. It's only fall-run.</p><p>I think the scariest thing is that in choosing as we are, we are actually degrading the fishes' ability to adapt in the future to things like climate change. They're becoming more like a monocrop.</p>
The first part of the film is about hatcheries and then it jumps to fish farms. You show the risks of Atlantic salmon being raised in open pens in Pacific waters. Was this a commentary on that practice specifically or fish farms in general?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTU5NzEwMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjIyOTQ0Mn0.oSyGlzWEpbRAPmS2Wdphaso9r96i5Is6EPDVsn0UlWc/img.jpg?width=980" id="db819" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d0e3d36540482e8510ffb688f771f501" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Net-pen salmon farms concentrate fish at unnaturally high levels, creating ideal conditions for disease, parasites and other health issues. Alta, Norway.
Ben Moon<p>In open net-pen aquaculture, when you have opportunities for the farmed fish to escape and interbreed with wild fish — when you have Atlantic salmon in the Pacific — one has to wonder, what are we doing? What's driving this? And it's just money.</p><p>There are other ways. There're opportunities for fish to be raised on land with either freshwater or saltwater with less harm to the wild environment. But we don't do it because we want more money. Floating a net in the ocean costs nothing. You don't even pay property taxes. You may have a license fee to the state, but that's it. And you get to dump everything into the water.</p><p>We may need to have aquaculture in the future and I think that it's a promising sector. But if we need more fish, if there's a demand for that, we need to do it in a way that does not harm wild fish.</p>
What do we lose if we don’t have wild salmon?<p>There're the obvious benefits that salmon give to ecosystems.</p><p>So for example, right now in rivers that have hatcheries, there's often a fish weir on the river and the fish will swim up to it until they can go no further. So they've taken all of the nutrients that they have acquired in the ocean, and they swim up to that weir, turn the corner and they swim themselves into the hatchery. The hatchery kills the fish, takes the gametes, makes the new generation and throws the fish into a landfill. All of those nutrients that used to funnel from the ocean to the headwaters of these rivers are gone. That means all of the animals that relied on those nutrients no longer have that.</p><p>But we don't care because we just want to make more fish and release them. For who? Commercial and sport fishers. That's it. That means there's no other value that salmon have to anything else in the ecosystem. If fish are not seen as wildlife and they're only seen as food and fun, then we will just try to churn them out and manufacture them as quickly as we can because of the economic benefits.</p><p>But we don't do that for grizzly bears. We don't have hatcheries for deer, for elk, for waterfowl. When you hear the word "hatchery," it sounds quaint, but if we call these "fish factories," which is what they really are, people might consider the whole thing differently.</p>
Raceways for raising juvenile spring Chinook salmon at the Sawtooth Hatchery, in Stanley, Idaho which is managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
What do you hope people take away from this film?<p>If we don't respect wild and we just try to replicate them in farms and replicate them in hatcheries, then we could lose wild altogether. What I hope the movie leaves people with is this kind of disquieting question, which is, are we at the end of wild?</p><p>If we are then that's a really frustrating reality. If, in fact, that's what we've decided, what then for birds? What then for bears? For elephants?</p><p>Some people just don't want to hear that because they're so focused on themselves — their livelihood or their recreation. But what about the rest of the entire ecosystem that relies on wild fish? It's not just about us. That is the arrogance of man — this whole story is just about us. And I think that's what we have to reconsider.</p><p>Fish are really indicators of water quality. I think about that in terms of the metaphor of the canary in the coal mine. If a miner was descending into a mine and the canary dies, it says to the miner, "don't go any farther." Right?</p><p>With fish it's like we're descending into that mine, the fish dies, and we just make more of them to put in the cage. It's telling us something. It's saying the environment can't support them. Fix that problem. Don't make more of them. We have to fix the disease, not just manage the symptom, which is a lack of fish. And until we do that, our future for wild fish, and our future for other wild things is in question.</p>
By Andrew Amelinckx
Take a broken-down 200-acre property that has been transformed into an incredibly lush and diverse biodynamic farm over eight years and capture it all on film and you get The Biggest Little Farm. This documentary tells the story of two newbie farmers and their rescue dog as they leave Los Angeles behind to build a farm that will work in harmony with nature in Moorpark, California. John Chester, the Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker who directed the film, and Molly Chester, a private chef and blogger, discovered that nature isn't easily harnessed when there are coyotes, gophers, snails, windstorms and wildfires to contend with. Here are some of the biggest reasons to go and see this film, which is at times heartbreaking, funny, achingly beautiful, charming and full of surprises.
Todd<p>Both the farm and the film owe their existence to a dog named Todd. The Chesters rescued him from an animal hoarder and promised him that their home would be his last. But Todd was a prodigious barker when left alone, so when the inevitable notice to vacate arrived due to noise complaints, the Chesters decided to take a chance on their dream. "It changed the course of our future because we had blindly committed to an animal and weren't willing to break that promise," said Chester. "Our love for that dog gave us this incredibly epic and magical existence."</p>
“We Went Crazy”<p>In less than a decade, <a href="https://www.apricotlanefarms.com/" target="_blank">Apricot Lane Farms</a> went from a dilapidated monocrop operation to a thriving farm with 10,000 orchard trees encompassing 75 different kinds of stone fruit, lemons, and avocados; a cornucopia of vegetables; and a boatload of animals, from pigs and sheep to horses and highland cattle. "We piled too much on from the beginning and were growing way too many things," said Chester. "We wanted a biologically diverse ecosystem, but we went crazy."</p>
An Untimely Parting<p>The reason for such diversity rests with the agricultural ethos of Alan York, a pioneer in biodynamic growing, an integrated system that builds soil fertility through composting, animals, cover crops and crop rotation. Chester enlisted the help of York early on, and he convinced the couple to bring in an incredibly diverse mix of crops and animals to help rebuild the soil. But an untimely parting with York, just when the system he had set up needed the most attention, left the Chesters feeling angry and frustrated. In the end, it forced them to become more creative and self-reliant to overcome their challenges. "I had to respect that there was something special about this farm, and I needed to look at in a different way," said Chester. "The problems were just things to be solved — they weren't going to kill us or our dream."</p>
Working in Harmony<p>By year five, the system created by York had begun to show results. Nature and agriculture were working hand in hand, with a balance between predators and pests that kept both in check. Yet, even with this dynamic ecosystem chugging along, every season would see a new pest or problem crop up, said Chester. The only difference now is that the system responds faster, preventing infestations and epidemics. Beyond this, their farm remains resilient in the face of climate change, with less soil erosion, an ability to store more groundwater and higher levels of carbon in the soil than a typical farm. "I didn't want to make a film about climate change," said Chester. "I wanted to make a film about its consequences and living through them. It's about the potential to unlock these ways to integrate ourselves within a system that regenerates it rather than depletes it."</p>
By Karen Perry Stillerman
An email in my inbox last month caught my attention. It was from author, environmental advocate, and Academy Award-winning film producer Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth), and it offered a preview of The Biggest Little Farm, a new documentary film David had coming out soon. "I promise you that any person that goes to see this film will leave inspired and caring a whole lot more for the planet," her note said. "I promise you it will help your organization achieve your goals!"
Soil is paramount.<p>When the Chesters first arrived at Apricot Lane Farms, their newly acquired soil was so compacted and devoid of organic matter, they could hardly break it with a shovel. "The soil is dead," John says flatly. "And we have no idea how to bring it back to life." But with the help of consultant and soil guru Alan York, they set about enriching it. "Plants build soil," Alan said as they seeded cover crops. They also installed a <a href="https://growingsolutions.com/using-compost-tea/" target="_blank">state-of-the-art compost tea system</a> and added animals (so many animals!) for their manure. And indeed, by the end of the film—which spans a seven-year period of <a href="https://www.drought.gov/drought/california-no-stranger-dry-conditions-drought-2011-2017-was-exceptional" target="_blank">historic California drought</a> followed by an <a href="https://www.climate.gov/news-features/featured-images/very-wet-2017-water-year-ends-california" target="_blank">unusually wet year</a>—the Chesters' <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/food-agriculture/advance-sustainable-agriculture/turning-soils-sponges" target="_blank">spongier soil</a> seemed to have paid off, as it held water better during dry periods and soaked up more of it when the rains fell. At a time when climate change is driving more weather extremes in every part of the country, building healthy soil will be critical to ensuring that farmers can be successful.</p>
2. Increasing a farm’s biodiversity is critical (and hard).<p>Someone recently said to me that farmers are the only manufacturers who work outside, completely exposed to the elements. There's truth in that, for sure, but the choice of the word "manufacturers" is revealing. Factories typically make one thing, over and over, day in and day out. And farming in the United States has become a lot like that—an overwhelmingly industrial process, divorced from nature and, in fact, often fighting it tooth and nail. In the film, we see Alan explaining how the Chesters must emulate how natural ecosystems work (we call this <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/marcia-delonge/the-abcds-of-agroecology-what-is-it-all-about-926" target="_blank">agroecology</a>). His mantra: "Diversify, diversify, diversify." John and Molly take this to the extreme, eventually farming 200+ crops and animals across pastures, orchards, and a large vegetable garden. A plethora of wildlife also returns, including new pests that require more creativity and further diversification to combat. Alan promises all this diversity will become simplicity, but as John notes, "a simple way of farming is just not easy."</p>
3. Few farmers can go to the lengths the Chesters have. But most don’t need to.<p>The 76 varieties of stone fruit trees John and Molly now tend is…probably a bit much for most farmers. And without access to investors like they recruited, few farm startups can afford fancy composting systems, miles of new irrigation line, and the costs associated with repeated trial and error. It is never clear, in the film, how much up-front and continued investment was necessary to do what they did at Apricot Lane Farms (though we can assume it was a lot). Nor do we know at what point in the saga that investment was fully recouped, if it has been. But recent research has shown that even more limited and lower-cost efforts at diversification on farms—for example, expanding <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/food-agriculture/advance-sustainable-agriculture/rotating-crops-turning-profits" target="_blank">from two crops to three or four</a>, or planting <a href="https://www.nrem.iastate.edu/research/STRIPS/content/what-are-prairie-strips" target="_blank">prairie strips</a> around the edges of crop fields—can have substantial benefits. And <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/marcia-delonge/the-bipartisan-2018-farm-bill-brings-some-consequences-cautious-optimism-for-conservation" target="_blank">federal farm programs provide help</a> (though not nearly enough) for farmers to do such things.</p>
4. One way or another, the ecological debts of our industrial farming system must be paid.<p>Apricot Lane Farms required substantial upfront investment not only because the Chesters had ambitious plans, but also because they needed to pay down an enormous ecological debt racked up on that piece of land over the years. Industrial agriculture has been <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/25012019/climate-change-agriculture-farming-consolidation-corn-soybeans-meat-crop-subsidies" target="_blank">called an "extraction industry"</a> because it takes nutrients from the land without replacing them, allows precious soil to wash or blow away, and sends rainwater running off the surface rather than percolating down to refill underground aquifers for later use. Due to decades of short-sighted management, this is the situation on farmland all across this country. And while John, Molly, and their investors had the means to take on Apricot Lane's ecological debt, it's not fair or realistic to expect farmers to make up for the damage caused by industrial practices and the public policies that have incentivized them. Rather, "The Biggest Little Farm" shows once again why shifting agricultural policies to help farmers diversify the landscape and rebuild their soil and is a smart investment in the future.</p>
5. Nature is breathtakingly beautiful.<p>The film's message is in line with what the science tells us about farmland diversification and healthy soil, and it comes at a time when legislators in <a href="https://soilhealthinstitute.org/resources/catalog/" target="_blank">many states</a> and <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/karen-perry-stillerman/farmers-are-excited-about-soil-health-thats-good-news-for-all-of-us" target="_blank">in Congress</a> are looking to expand policy supports and public investments to help more farmers advance soil health. Even though Apricot Lane is just one farm, and a unique one at that, my hope is that this film adds to the conversation. But you don't have to be an advocate for healthy soil policy to appreciate the movie, which above all is visually stunning and brimming with optimism. You'll marvel at the ways John Chester's cinematography captures the beauty and devastation of nature and life on a diversified, ecologically-based farm—from aerial footage of painstakingly designed orchards to images of playful lambs and terrifying wildfires, infrared footage of nocturnal predators, and superslomo shots of the hummingbirds and beneficial insects who return as part of the farm's renewal. If you like <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fmhdx_kRd-w&cid=wwa-us-kwgo-iphone-slid---+iphone++commercial-b&mtid=20925d2q39172&aosid=p238&mnid=sONjxlDdV-dc_mtid_20925d2q39172_pcrid_343878260391&anonymizeip=set" target="_blank">that iPhone commercial</a>, you'll find this film equally appealing.</p>
Beloved nature broadcaster Sir David Attenborough narrated a BBC documentary on climate change Thursday that Guardian reviewer Rebecca Nicholson said aimed to encourage action around climate the way that Attenborough's Blue Planet II galvanized the world against single-use plastic.
- Attenborough: 'If We Wreck the Natural World, We Wreck Ourselves ... ›
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A powerful documentary can help inform viewers and spark a more conscious lifestyle. Maybe you've thrown out rotting greens one too many times, or waste from online shopping has you feeling guilty. The following list of documentaries may inspire you to "green" your life a bit more just in time for spring.
1. Our Planet (2019)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="69e129efc63a37ca6258d5ce32b4650d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/aETNYyrqNYE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><em>Our Planet </em>is a new Netflix original nature docuseries premiering April 5. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, this is the first of his series to appear exclusively online.</p><p><strong>How to watch:<br></strong></p><p>Stream all<em> </em>episodes on <a href="https://www.netflix.com/title/80049832" target="_blank">Netflix</a>.</p><p><strong><span></span>Want to know more?</strong></p><p>You might like this article from The Atlantic: <em><a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/04/wildlife-series-finally-addresses-elephant-room/586066/" target="_blank">Netflix's Our Planet Says What Other Nature Series Have Omitted</a></em><em><a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/04/wildlife-series-finally-addresses-elephant-room/586066/"> Says What Other Nature Series Have Omitted</a></em>.</p>
2. The End of Meat (2017)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0cbc0adcd62d6660a505fcbeb13c0035"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N71QxvZxfGk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>After sold-out premieres worldwide, German Filmmaker Marc Pierschel's <em>The End of Meat</em> launched worldwide on March 12. The documentary exposes the brutal impact of meat consumption, while also exploring what a shift to a more compassionate diet can look like. </p><p><strong>How to watch: </strong><br></p><p><em>The</em> <em>End of Meat</em> is available to stream on <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-end-of-meat/id1423170756?mt=6&ign-mpt=uo%3D4" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/End-Meat-Steve-Jenkins/dp/B07G5F1GR2" target="_blank">Amazon Prime</a> and <a href="https://vimeo.com/ondemand/theendofmeatfilm" target="_blank">Vimeo</a>. You can also purchase a DVD or Blu-ray. If you live outside the U.S. here's how <a href="http://www.theendofmeat.com/en/watch.html" target="_blank">you can watch</a> in your country.</p>
3. Hostile Planet (2019)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c4d4cfc80860c77d243b1f9feb1a1b22"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QkUmyFripgQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>From Director Guillermo Navarro (<em>Pan's Labyrinth), </em><em>Hostile Planet</em> is a six-part nature series that premiered April 1 on National Geographic. The series is narrated by <a href="https://www.outsideonline.com/2290586/bear-grylls-will-never-give" target="_blank">Bear Grylls</a> (<em>Running Wild with Bear Grylls).</em><br></p><p><strong><em></em>How to watch:</strong></p><p><strong><span></span></strong>New episodes premiere Monday nights at 9 p.m. EST on the National Geographic channel. If cable TV isn't your thing, catch up on <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/hostile-planet/" target="_blank">episodes online</a>.</p><p><strong style="">Want to know more?</strong></p><p>Check out Outside Magazine's <em><a href="https://www.outsideonline.com/2393053/hostile-planet-series" target="_blank">'Hostile Planet' Takes a Candid Look at Climate Change</a>.</em></p>
4. Rotten (2018)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c59e3cd4f4f9979b330fb9f46856daee"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_ot6W_7hvrM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><em>Rotten</em> is a six-part documentary series featured on Netflix. The series shines a light on the corruption, waste and danger behind the food we eat. The series was produced by the team behind Anthony Bourdain's <em>Parts Unknown</em> and <em>The Mind of a Chef.</em></p><p><strong>How to watch:</strong></p><p>Stream the documentary series on <a href="https://www.netflix.com/title/80146284" target="_blank">Netflix</a>.</p><p><strong>Want to know more?</strong></p><p>Here's a 2018 article from SIERRA Magazine that breaks down <em>Rotten</em> by episode: <em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/netflix-rotten-2549886352.html" target="_self">Netflix's 'Rotten' Reveals the Perils of Global Food Production</a>.</em></p>
5. Wasted! The Story of Food Waste (2017)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1c20ce055dfa29dafe008475ee97872b"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KUQGVSyXDWA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><em> <em>WASTED! </em>produced by Anthony Bourdain explores both a broken food system and possible solutions to our <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/tag/food-waste" target="_self">21st century issue</a> of food waste.</em></p><p><strong>How to watch:</strong></p><p>Check out<em> WASTED!</em> on <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Wasted-Story-Waste-Anthony-Bourdain/dp/B075RNMZ1Y" target="_blank">Amazon Prime</a>, <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/wasted-the-story-of-food-waste/id1273278809" target="_blank">iTunes</a> or through a <a href="https://www.starz.com/play/38378" target="_blank">Starz</a> subscription. </p>
- Netflix's 'Rotten' Reveals the Perils of Global Food Production ... ›
- Sir David Attenborough Set to Present BBC Documentary on ... ›
- Attenborough: 'If We Wreck the Natural World, We Wreck Ourselves ... ›
- Climate Champion David Attenborough Breaks Jennifer Anniston's Instagram Record - EcoWatch ›
It started with a call from actress and animal rights activist Natalie Portman to author Jonathan Safran Foer. The latter had recently taken a break from novel-writing to publish 2009's New York Times best-selling treatise Eating Animals—an in-depth discussion of what it means to eat animals in an industrialized world, with all attendant environmental and ethical concerns. The two planned a meeting in Foer's Brooklyn backyard, and also invited documentary director Christopher Dillon Quinn (God Grew Tired of Us) over. The idea was to figure out how to turn Foer's sprawling, memoiristic book into a documentary that would ignite mainstream conversations around our food systems.
- 'A Vegan Diet Is Probably the Single Biggest Way to Reduce Your ... ›
- ‘My Octopus Teacher’ Stuns Audiences, Reinforces Power of Nature - EcoWatch ›
Truly great films about the climate crisis are tough to come by. Allusions to environmental destruction are very familiar in the futuristic dystopias Hollywood churns out like clockwork, but they rarely get the science right—or they abandon it entirely in favor of skipping straight to some post-apocalyptic CGI extravaganza.
By Katie O'Reilly
Wendell Berry hates screens. The 83-year-old novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic and Kentucky-based farmer is of the mind that TV and technological devices serve to degrade the imagination and threaten literature. His distaste for idolatry is part of why he's turned down several requests to be featured in documentary projects. On April 23, however, a cinematic portrait of America's foremost "prophet of rural America" hits the PBS airwaves. Look & See: Wendell Berry's Kentucky portrays the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in an era dominated by industrial agriculture, through the eyes of Wendell Berry.
To some, climate change might feel like a distant problem that does not affect our everyday lives. Some even treat the global phenomenon with downright indifference or label it a "hoax."
Of course, climate change is not a faraway threat. The destructive effects of a warming world are very real and are felt today, especially in the low-lying Pacific island nation of Kiribati.
It's that time, again!
EcoWatch is proud to be a media partner of the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), now celebrating its 42nd year. This year, EcoWatch is honored to be sponsoring Anote's Ark. This documentary spotlights Kiribati, a small remote island facing devastating effects due to climate change.