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Every Bite Counts
by Birgit Schrumpf

“A taste for the truth” is the common theme of the films shown in the Culinary Cinema of the Berlinale now in its third year. The programme is made up of five feature films, five documentaries and four short films. Some films are accompanied by a taste of culinary highlights prepared by Berlin top chef Tim Raue. He comments, “People are finally beginning to talk about food as the most important factor in our survival. Many people are not aware of what is happening around the world on a daily basis in terms of food poisoning, speculation with grain crops and the creation of potentially disastrous monocultures.”

Food for thought and a heated discussion is guaranteed after the screening of the Robert Kenner’s documentary Food, Inc. which by some critics has already been labelled a “civilized horror movie”. The film builds on the work of nutritionists, journalists and activists Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) to show how multi-nationals have taken over the production of food. We are told that corn is kept at unrealistically low prices by the government; it is widely fed to animals that have not evolved to eat it. Therefore, they are prone to develop illnesses, having to be treated with antibiotics which will pass on to the consumer. This vicious circle involves even the agricultural agencies who are supposed to protect the consumer. This is making it a highly political issue. But there is hope. Stay away from expensive ready-made industrial food (usually with too much sugar and hidden carbohydrates), eat real food by cooking your own meals, control the quantities, eat not more than you need – it may even be a cheaper alternative in times of an economic pinch.

During the Terra Madre International Forum in Turin, Italy, in 2006, the master director Ermanno Olmi and his crew started shooting for a documentary film that was dedicated to Terra Madre (Mother Earth) and was meant to be “political and foreseeing”. But the film is not only about the large gathering in Turin: these people belong to communities in which they are working daily. They produce food in a sustainable way, with no waste and with respect for their surrounding environment, continuing along the path of ancestral knowledge. They can show a way how to overcome crises and how to reconcile us with Mother Earth.

The Culinary Cinema provides a variety of themes such as the gay comedy Antique by Min Kyo-Dong about love in a small Korean confectionary. Claudio del Punta has a documentary Haity Chérie telling a bitter-sweet love story in the sugar plantations. Jean-Paul Jaud proofs how children make the best activists for environmental protection with his documentary Nos Enfants Nous Accuseront. Other titles are: Pirate for the Sea (USA), Pranzo Di Ferragosto (Italy), Snijeg (Snow – Bosnia and Herzegovina). What’s on Your Plate? (USA) is followed by a programme with children cooking lunch under the guidance of Alf Wagenzink and supported by the Kreuzberg youth project “die gelbe Villa” (the yellow villa).

“Food and drink is not only a question of taste but also politics. In addition to casting your ballot, you can “vote with your fork” and through what you buy. People who are not starving can decide, three times a day, what they eat. What is eaten has consequences for mankind, and on the biological and cultural diversity of the planet. Every bite counts,” comments Thomas Struck, director of the third Culinary Cinema programme.