20 March 2012

Amsterdam's Food Film Festival

Like food? Want to learn more about where your food comes from? For me and for many, the trend toward knowing what's really on your plate is becoming more about politics than any expertise in fine dining. Last weekend I attended the Food Film Festival, an initiative from the Youth Food Movement based in Amsterdam. They are committed to creating a fairer and healthier food system, and this film festival is one of their most popular tactics in spreading the word about their cause.

Among other offerings, the Food Film Festival had a small market that took over the Timorplein in east Amsterdam. I strolled around for some time, sampling delicious cheeses and breads and learning about local food initiatives like Ruud Maaz. Then I headed inside for a rest and a plate of beet hummus.

I saw the film Raising Resistance, and learned about how campesinos are revolting against the large-scale soybean cultivation in Paraguay. I learned that soy plantations use pesticides that kill everything but the soybeans - including any neighboring crops grown by the local farmers. I really found it creepy to see those soybean fields, everything dead and crackling in the ground except the soybeans themselves. This is the face of modern agriculture, and these soybeans feed the cows that provide the meat that so many demand at low prices. Did you ever think that choosing to eat a cheeseburger with your fries had deadly consequences for a small local farmer in Paraguay? I certainly hadn't thought of it.

Oh, and I almost forgot - when I walked into the theater, I was handed a small tub of Ben & Jerry's chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. I eyed it suspiciously until I learned that Ben & Jerry's is tooting their socially responsible horn pretty loudly. Their mission statement seems to be the typical mix of general, feel-good statements, though their occupy statement is better. As I savored the flavor I was cautiously optimistic about my future ice cream intake. And chocolate chip cookie dough? Yum.

It would have been great to attend more films, but when I checked a couple weeks before the festival was scheduled to start, everything was sold out. Next year, I'd better plan well in advance!

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