Food on Film: How Education Shapes the Future of Our Food System

27 Mai 2024 | English

With its new international project, Slow Food is putting the focus on education

In an era marked by unprecedented environmental challenges, the role of culture in addressing the climate crisis has come to the forefront of global agendas. As articulated in the 2019 World Cities Culture Forum report, culture serves not only as a reflection of societal norms but also as a potent force for provocation and change. By challenging existing paradigms and shaping collective values, culture has the power to galvanize communities and inspire action on pressing issues such as climate change.

Central to this cultural landscape is the medium of film, which possesses a unique ability to capture hearts and minds through immersive storytelling. Films have long served as windows into human experience, offering audiences a strong connection to diverse perspectives and narratives. In the context of environmental sustainability, cinema has become a powerful tool for raising awareness, fostering empathy and catalyzing social change.

The Food on Film project

The Food on Film project will be officially launched at the Hungry Minds Festival in Pollenzo, Italy, and will run until 2026. It serves as a nexus of culture, education and environmental advocacy, recognizing the transformative potential of film as a vehicle for addressing food-related sustainability challenges. By harnessing the emotional power of storytelling, the project seeks to engage audiences in a dialogue on the intricate relationships between food, environment and society. Through a blend of cinematic experiences and educational initiatives, Food on Film aims to cultivate a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics shaping our food systems and their impact on the planet. “Launching the project at the Hungry Minds Festival has a very important meaning for us,” says Eleonora Lano, Slow Food’s Director of Education. “On this occasion we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the University of Gastronomic Sciences and emphasize again the role education plays in shaping young students who represent a new brighter future for our planet. Slow Food Italy has also recently presented a petition to include food education in schools, perfectly in line with the Food on Film objectives.”

The Food on Film project offers a range of innovative tools to engage with and inform its audience, particularly young people. At its core is a digital platform featuring 200 environmental films, built upon Cinemambiente’s existing database and accessible to high schools in five European Union countries, giving them access to a diverse selection of environmental films. Through this platform, classes will open the door to a comprehensive educational pathway supported by various toolkits related to key Slow Food issues, enabling them to participate in engaging and in-depth activities. Within this selection, a specific catalogue showcases documentaries available in Italian, English, French, German and Montenegrin, aimed at raising awareness around environmental and food-related challenges among younger generations. In addition to classroom screenings, students will engage in interactive and immersive activities in collaboration with Slow Food, including educational Live Action Role-Play (LARP) games and the production of short films. These innovative methods not only foster active student engagement but also equip them with practical skills in effectively communicating food system challenges.

The project also includes a European screenplay contest among schools participating in the first-year projects, allowing students to express their creativity and engage with food-related themes through filmmaking. Winning schools will have the opportunity to take part in filmmaking workshops with the Mobile Film Festival, contributing to the formation of a global community of young film activists.

“The first protagonists of this project will be students, with their creativity, open minds and capacity to consciously use new technologies,” continues Lano. In the first year of the project, at least 100 European school classes will access an extensive Cinemambiente film catalogue and have the opportunity to analyze the films and create short videos themselves. “Students will have the unique opportunity to learn about how films are made and explore new activities such as LARP, a playful activity originating in theater where players embody characters within simulated scenarios. These are essential assets that can feed into their CVs.”

The Food on Film project will enable the cross-border collaboration of the Slow Food movement with five European environmental film festivals, which complement each other with creative and technical skills. This diverse partnership reflects the project’s multidisciplinary approach, combining entertainment and activism through educational and creative activities in schools and environmental film festivals that are open to the public. The project reaffirms the importance of films and food as a center of exchange and social aggregation, looking in particular to the younger generations with the overarching purpose of bringing them closer to environmental issues and cinemagoing experience.

The first four festivals—Cinemambiente Environmental Film Festival in Italy, the Innsbruck Nature Film Festival in Austria, the Interfilm Festival in Germany and the Green Montenegro International Film Fest—will host a selection of films from the Food on Film catalogue during their annual editions. The screenings will be matched with special events such as debates, tastings and meetings with food producers, cooks and farmers. The fifth festival is the Mobile Film Festival, which focuses on education activities and film-making workshops.

 

More on the festivals

Cinemambiente was started in 1998 with the aim of presenting the best international films on the environment and contributing to the promotion of environmentalist culture. It is now the leading green cinema event in Italy and among the most important on the international scene.

The Mobile Film Festival was created 18 years ago and is one of the best smartphone film festivals in the world. It aims to discover and support young talented filmmakers from around the world. The festival boosts a unique format of “1 Mobile, 1 Minute, 1 Film” and is fully digital. It draws on a previous collaboration with the United Nations to raise awareness of environmental challenges through films, having participated in COP21, COP25 and COP26 through a festival section on the topics “Act on Climate Change,” “Act Now on Climate Change” and “Making Peace with Nature.”

Green Montenegro International Film Fest (GMIFF) is a conceptual film festival around the theme of environmental protection. The aim is to develop and raise awareness of the need to protect the environment through the artistic impulse and the improvement of knowledge and awareness of ecology.

The Innsbruck Nature Film Festival (INFF) is Austria’s only film festival with a focus on nature and the environment. It celebrated its 22nd anniversary in 2023. As an international environmental film festival set amidst the Alps, the INFF pays special attention to European networking and the values of the European Green Deal.

Interfilm Festival-International Short Film Festival Berlin was founded in 1982 in the squats of Kreuzberg. Now in its 39th edition, Interfilm is the oldest and biggest short film festival in the German capital. Over four decades it has developed a reputation that attracts international filmmakers and local film fans alike to the cinemas every year. The festival, which qualifies for the Academy Awards, has long been renowned even beyond German and European borders.

All the project’s partner festivals belong to the Green Film Network, which links the major annual film festivals that focus on environmental issues. It coordinates its members’ festival events, promotes and distributes films worldwide and encourages initiatives and projects that raise environmental awareness. Slow Food, Cinemambiente and the Mobile Film Festival have already successfully collaborated in the framework of the EU-funded project “CINE – Cinema communities for Innovation, Networking and Environment.”

The project is run by Slow Food, Associazione Cinemambiente, CEZAM, Innsbruck Nature Film Festival and Mobilevent and is co-funded by the European Union and Creative Europe MEDIA with the contribution of Fondazione CRC.

 Here are a selection of films from the Food on Film catalogue to which schools will have access .

Océans, le Mystère plastique (Oceans, the Mystery of the Missing Plastic)

by Vincent Perazio

France, 2016, 53′

Only 1% of the plastic floating in the oceans washes up on beaches or is trapped in Arctic ice. Of the remaining 99%, estimated at hundreds of thousands of tons, we still know too little. This black hole hides an ecological tragedy. Most plastic never deteriorates but simply breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic particles invisible to the human eye, creating a new ecosystem: the plastisphere. We urgently need to investigate the phenomenon and its consequences: Where do the particles go? Are they ingested by organisms or buried under the ocean floor? And what is their potential impact on the food chain?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoAJ1tTCA0A

First We Eat

by Suzanne Crocker

Canada, 2020, 101′

What happens when a normal family living 300 kilometers from the Arctic Circle no longer gets their groceries from the supermarket? This is the tale of Suzanne Crocker. Despite her teenage children’s skepticism and her husband’s reluctance, the harsh Yukon temperatures and a host of other challenges, she manages to implement her plan to feed her family only on what they can catch, fish, cultivate and harvest. Her radical choice expresses her determination to discover new horizons for the future and explore a way of life that is rarely followed these days. The family’s experiment extends to include the entire community, providing an opportunity to rediscover the history and identity of the native peoples.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LmBY915KNQ

Soyalism

by Enrico Parenti and Stefano Liberti

Italy, 2018, 70′

Offering a broad perspective on climate change, Soyalism embarks on a journey from China to Brazil via the United States and Mozambique, following the tracks of the industrial production of pork and soy. The new “green gold” cultivated on cleared Amazon forest land then shipped to intensive pig farms around the world is an example of big business in the hands of the powerful few. This concentration of power drives an increasingly unsustainable economic model, a process that is upsetting the social and environmental balance of the planet, destroying entire ecosystems and forcing small livestock farmers out of business.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK_6d12C2BQ

To Raise and Rise

by Oliver Dickinson

France, 2019, 88’

Industrialization and profitability have transformed most of French livestock farming into overcrowded barns and cruel practices. Fortunately, Laure, Nicolas, Annabelle and their fellow farmers have chosen another path, offering more respect to their animals throughout their lives. All their efforts are rewarded by the extraordinary relationship that these farmers form with their animals, a necessary and profound bond. The documentary is a touching testimony to the commitment with which it is possible to implement change in favor of a sustainable production model.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRKVMk-UOnc

Food for Profit

By Giulia Innocenzi and Pablo D’Ambrosi

Food for Profit is a revealing investigation that uncovers the threads that bind the meat industry, lobbies and political power. At the center are the billions of euros Europe allocates to intensive livestock farms, which mistreat animals, pollute the environment and serve as breeding grounds for future pandemics. Giulia Innocenzi and Pablo D’Ambrosi’s documentary, independently produced and distributed, was released in cinemas at the end of February. After its premiere at the European Parliament and several presentations in institutional venues, from the Italian Parliament to regional councils, Food for Profit has succeeded in triggering a real political debate around European subsidies to intensive livestock farms and how close some politicians are to the meat industry. In Brussels, for the first time ever, a lobbyist was able to film his talks with MEPs by carrying a hidden camera inside the European Parliament.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZs7nDjMc0c

L’Empire de l’or rouge (The Empire of Red Gold)

by Jean-Baptiste Malet and Xavier Deleu

France, 2017, 55’

Based on a book of the same name by J.B. Malet, the film delves into the history of the tomato and its industrial production, a late-19th-century mass production model that heralded the concept of a globalized economy. Today, the tomato is an international product shipped from country to country in huge barrels before being processed as a basic ingredient in everyday cuisine. Where and how are tomatoes grown and harvested, and by whom? The major producers are Italy, China and Africa, where huge profits can be reaped through worker exploitation, organized crime and environmental degradation.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSYL-pqAq5E

10 Billion – What’s on Your Plate?

By Valentin Thurn

Germany, 2015, 103’

By 2050, the world population will grow to ten billion people. In the middle of the heated debate about food security comes this broad yet analytic look into the enormous spectrum of global food production and distribution, from artificial meat, insects and industrial farming to trendy self-cultivation. Valentin Thurn seeks solutions worldwide and makes space for innovation and visions for our future. The film shows sustainable and gentle methods to ensure food production and offers the message that we can actually make a difference right now.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJAzs3GaHYE

Just Eat It – A Food Waste Story

by Grant Baldwin

Canada, 2014, 75’

Nearly half of the food produced in America is thrown out. Even worse, 10% of the population do not meet their daily nutritional requirements. Can one live on food rejected by a system based on wastage? This is what Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin set out to prove with a six-month experiment in which they gained several pounds and saved about $20,000 by collecting food near or after their sell-by date as well as damaged and mislabeled products.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkASAZGIuu0

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