Dinner and a Movie? 9 Fine Films on Food from 2015

, senior scientist | February 26, 2016, 11:16 am EDT
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fa-blog-oscars-mealFor me, thoughts of Oscars during most of the year are more likely to conjure up images of Oscar the Grouch (who, come to think of it, probably gets plenty of perfectly fine food tossed into his trashcan), while any mention of the Academy is likely to have me dreaming about science. But, in February, I’m one of the masses who eagerly awaits some guidance from the pros as to which of the year’s films were landmark achievements in the craft.

With movies on my mind, this seems like the perfect time to share some of the films and video clips about food and agriculture that made a big impression on my colleagues and me in 2015.

Indulge in UCS Food & Environment’s 9 favorites from 2015

  1. Adapted Screenplay: In Defense of Food

As an early fan of Michael Pollan’s best-selling game-changer, “In Defense of Food”, I waited eagerly for the PBS special based on the book, and I loved it (I wasn’t the only one—read my colleague Karen Perry Stillerman’s review here).

  1. Documentary Short – Food System: Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast

Think your food comes from the store? Think again! Food Chain Workers Alliance helps to raise our awareness about the bigger story (and the many people) behind the food that makes it to our tables. (Just another reason why we need a better food system.)

  1. Documentary Short – Farm SystemSoil Solutions to Climate Problems

In less than 5 minutes, this film from the Center for Food Safety and narrated by Michael Pollan seamlessly integrates a science lesson about soil carbon and the carbon cycle into stunning imagery and a story about solutions, featuring healthy soils and a lot of agroecology.

  1. Special Effects: The Martian

The only actual contender for any Academy Awards on this list, this one makes the cut by depicting farming on Mars (under extreme drought). It is rare to find a Hollywood favorite that makes a hero out of plant science, compost, and potatoes! If you ever need a reminder of how precious our water and soils are, (re-)watch this one.

  1. Animated Musical: You Are What You Eat

What I love about this jazzy animation from the Formidable Vegetable Sound System is its catchy ode to the tiny critters (microbes!) that surround us, but that we so often take for granted. This video is a fun little reminder of how you are what you eat, and what it eats too.

  1. Documentary Feature: Not Really Expired

A team of students from the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic takes its work on the road to get to the bottom of the confusing expiration, sell by, use by, and best before dates that exacerbate our food waste problems and are enormously costly. One finding? A shortage of science. The trailer alone may shock you.

  1. Autobiography: Women in Agriculture: An Iowa Perspective

History buff? Watch this inspiring 15-minute video from Helen Gunderson, sharing stories and perspectives from her own experience as a woman in agriculture in America’s heartland. Featuring historic photos and video clips, this piece offers a unique glimpse into family life and roles on the farm from the 1900s to today.

  1. Family Film: The Kaos Sheep Outfit

Sheep in a vineyard? Yes, it’s true. Check out this video to learn about one trailblazing family and their partners who are all experimenting with innovative farming practices that they hope will heal the earth. The video, complete with clear commitments to science and sustainability, will warm your heart.

  1. Actor: Ricardo Salvador, in Our Broken Food System (And How to Fix It)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m biased here. Nevertheless, our team is really proud of this video designed to paint a clearer picture of the consequences from our broken food system. If you like it too, please vote for a DoGooder Award here!


Our nine favorites from 2015. Row 1: The Martian, Soil Solutions to Climate Problems; row 2: Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast?, In Defense of Food; row 3: Our Broken Food System (and How to Fix It), The Kaos Sheep Outfit; row 4: Women in Agriculture: An Iowa Perspective, Not Really Expired, You Are What You Eat.

Hungry for more? Revisit these 3 favorites from 2014

These three films are from last year, but don’t let them slip through the cracks!

  1. Comedy : Cover Cropping Is Like… Juggling

Outstanding, fun, and surprising simple demonstration by USDA scientists exquisitely communicating some of the challenges and benefits of adding a cover crop to a crop rotation. This one should make you smile!

  1. Western: Soil Carbon Cowboys

This short film shares the fascinating stories of three bold ranchers who transformed their farms, for the better, by incorporating regenerative grazing practices. Listen to these experts explain how introducing new farming practices and more plant diversity has enriched their soils, improved their land, and even helped their bottom lines.

  1. Foreign Language Film: Intermarché Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

Think about it. Do all the carrots in the supermarket naturally grow in the same size? If not, what happens to the rest? The uniformity on display in our favorite shops is actually another major offender behind the food waste problem, but here is a rare case of advertising to the rescue.

Bottomless treats

Looking to binge-watch food-focused flicks on a rainy day? We’ve got you covered! See these excellent sources for a regular dose of food-centric series and collections.

  1. Real Food Films
  2. Lexicon of Sustainability/Know Your Food
  3. How Does It Grow?
  4. Food Forward!

Now, grab some popcorn (but please bee careful) and enjoy the shows.

P.S. Did we miss your favorite film from 2015? If so, let us know!

Posted in: Food and Agriculture

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  • Jennifer Lynn Purdy

    How about Conspiracy? Or any movie that points to livestock as being a significant cause of global warming? I must wonder why your website does not even mention the huge role our high consumption of animal products is contributing to global warming and other environmental issues (pollution).

    • Marcia DeLonge

      Hi Jennifer,
      Thank you for commenting and recommending another thought-provoking film from this past year. It is true that large amounts of animal products are produced and consumed in our current system with major consequences. For that reason, we do discuss how our industrial meat production systems (including the crops used for feed) are a major driver of pollution throughout our website (e.g., http://www.ucsusa.org/our-work/food-agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture#.Vtc1I_krJpg), some of my colleagues have written extensively about the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions from livestock (e.g.,http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/reduce-emissions/climate-change-and-land-use-practices.html#.Vtc3PfkrJpg), and we have been advocating for a stronger statement in the Dietary Guidelines regarding both the health impacts of red meat and the need to include environmental sustainability considerations (http://blog.ucsusa.org/lindsey-haynes-maslow/searching-for-scientific-integrity-in-the-dietary-guidelines-report-process?_ga=1.141096890.925852259.1450274214).

      There are many factors behind the problematic outcomes from our dominant animal production systems, so there are several areas where progress is urgently needed. While some of that can come from shifts in diets,there are also overarching issues with the larger food system. It’s
      particularly important to consider that there are numerous management practices that could be used to produce any given food item – all with different outcomes related to climate, water, soils, land use, public health, farmer well-being, rural communities, and so on. This complexity requires a whole system perspective to find the most practical and effective solutions. We are closely following the science in search of opportunities to reduce the negative impacts from damaging systems while also making healthful and sustainable food choices more affordable and accessible.