'Food Beware': Vive La (Local Food) Revolution!
By Bob Mondello | NPR
Children Of The (Organic) Corn: The children of the French town of Barjac become the ultimate judges of the local
organic movement after their school starts serving 100 percent locally grown, organic food. (The kids love it.)
For the past few years, it's taken a strong stomach to walk into a food documentary. Watch Food, Inc., for instance, and you'll probably conclude that purchasing anything on the supermarket shelf will either destroy the planet or enrich someone vile. Super Size Me? The dramatized screen version of Fast Food Nation? Those two had to leave even burger fanatics feeling queasy.
In which context, the new French docu Food Beware sounds like more of the same. But rather than just putting you off your feed, it's aimed at pointing up a success story — a small French town called Barjac that went organic and thrived.
The original French title — Nos Enfants Nous Accuseront (Our Children Will Accuse Us) — isn't much better than the American title, but at least it's descriptive of filmmaker Jean-Paul Jaud's rhetorical technique. He concentrates on the town's kids — the first ones affected when the mayor and city council decide the school cafeteria should serve locally grown organic cuisine.
The decision also affects Barjac's meals-on-wheels program for elderly shut-ins, and sure, they're appreciative. But what could be more photogenic than a clamoring crowd of second- and third-graders growing their own produce in the school's gardens, digging into Cobb salads with enthusiasm, and talking about drinking-water purity at the foot of an ancient Roman aqueduct?
From the first burst of statistics about pesticides (superimposed over shots of kids playing hopscotch in the schoolyard), you might expect Food Beware to be a conventionally hectoring activist documentary. And it certainly lays out its pro-organic arguments forcefully: When someone argues at a town meeting that the council's concern about chemicals in food seems alarmist — aren't life spans longer than ever? — the speaker notes that life-expectancy studies are based on people born in the 1920s and '30s, and that those folks spent their first two decades eating additive-free foods.
After a bit, the townsfolk seem to adopt the notion that it might not be terrible for their own kids to get that kind of start. Jaud's not always subtle; he shoots parents chatting about pregnancies on country roads as tractors spray clouds of pesticides in the fields behind them. Still, by and large, the tone is gentle, the music French, and the food shot so delectably that you can all but smell the freshly baked bread.