HotDocs ’23: Food and Country

In the wake of the pandemic, one of America’s most influential food writers, Ruth Reichel, starts to interview her many contacts in the food world, taking a look at the volatile nature of farming in America and how COVID only exacerbated the problems. There are many problems that have plagued American’s farming throughout the years. To start, they are broken economic businesses. They have to rely on the big packagers which shut down due to their faulty COVID protocols and suddenly all the food they were growing was going to waste. Even when their farming operates normally, they have to take out millions of dollars in loan just to make a standard American wage, something that forced a lot of closures in both the farms and restaurants they supported as they tried to find new sources of income. This problem also shines a spotlight on the racial inequality in farming, where slavery had removed the ability for black people to own land and, in the restaurant business. Yet the restaurant business also made them a new form of slave as the businesses didn’t pay them and relied on the excuse of tipping culture to pay their servers.

Food and Country remains disjointed from its conception as it tries to cover so much about the massive landscape of food in America and how it was affected by the pandemic. There never seemed to be a specific aim and, unfortunately, they failed to find a strong and specific thesis to help connect all these different pandemic food stories. This is exacerbated by the reliance on the past through archival footage due to the lack of ability to have crews shooting at cinematic quality during the pandemic. The film certainly is a labor of passion and a personal exercise that deserved to be shared but it’s hard to justify the length considering the lack of a streamlined hook. I personally think there’s more value in this film being accessible to the small screen but I do believe that, as a feature film, it doesn’t serve the theatrical experience as strongly as something like this should.

Food and Country is now playing at HotDocs ’23. For more information, click here.

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