One night in January 2010, four friends and I sat around a kitchen table. The Youth Food Movement (part of the Slow Food Youth Network/SFYN) in the Netherlands had just taken off and we were eager to start up projects to change the way people think about food. We wanted to share stories of our food system: not only the problems that exist, but also the beauty and joy of a good meal. What better way to tell these stories than through film? That night, we came up with an idea: to create a festival that combines films, workshops, a great restaurant, a food market and, of course, music and parties. The Food Film Festival was born.
We had no idea where to start, no experience and no money. What followed was a year and a half of brainstorming ideas, sharing our plans with anyone who wanted to hear them, and searching for sponsors. When the first festival took place in Amsterdam in 2011 it was an unexpected success. More than 4000 visitors came to the event; with all the films, and workshops sold out, and the restaurant constantly packed: The Food Film Festival and SFYN were on the map!
From the beginning, we set our ambitions high. We wanted to create the world’s most important festival dedicated to food and film, build an annual stage for the food movement in the Netherlands and show people that the movement for good, clean and fair food is a political movement that means business. We wanted to bring together chefs, food professionals and food producers, as well as Slow Food and SFYN members from across the globe – our own little Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre.
Four years on, many of our dreams have come true. The fourth edition of the Food Film Festival will take place from May 9-11 in a new and bigger location in Amsterdam, de Westergasfabriek. We are expecting around 10,000-15,000 visitors, who will be able to indulge themselves in a diverse program. Highlights will include a keynote speech by innovative farmer Joel Salatin, star of Michael Pollan’s books; a debate on fisheries, in collaboration with a young fishers organization; and an interactive show co-organized by Birdlife. Visitors will also have the chance to book amazing lunch experiences, prepared by the legendary Pourcel brothers and other young rising stars of Dutch cuisine. A pop-up restaurant, which will be run by Joris Bijdendijk, the Netherlands’ youngest Michelin star chef and member of the Slow Food Chef Alliance, will also be serving-up reasonably priced food throughout the festival.
Having seen that a small group of people, with no experience whatsoever, were able to build this popular event, and the community surrounding it, has really strengthened my belief that with the right amount of creativity, perseverance and a lot of hard work, in our own special way, we can change the world.
Joris Lohman is the leader of the Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) in the Netherlands, co-founder of the Food Film Festival and member of the Executive Committee of Slow Food International.