Judge Roy Hrab is all about the flavor...and flav.
The local food movement takes root.
Slow, sustainable and local food gets an up-close treatment in Robert Bates's documentary Ingredients. While these movements appear to be trendy at the moment and get thrown into the same category as "organic," the fact is that slow and local have been around for decades. Ingredients sheds light on the origins of the movement in the United States and its current status.
The film is built simply around interviews with various proponents of local farming and slow food. The personalities include chef and restaurateur Alice Waters, chef Greg Higgins, lamb farmer John Neumeister, produce farmers Sheldon Marcuvitz and Carole Laity, and others located in Oregon, New York, and Ohio.
The interviews just feature people talking. There is no interviewer asking questions on- or off-camera, although the film is narrated by Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers). The subjects discuss the differences between local farming versus large-scale commercial "organic" farming; the European origins of the movement of connecting farmers directly to chefs and consumers; the nutritional advantages of locally grown food; the positive community building affects of local food; the genesis of industrial, chemical-based farming and the perils of our fast and processed food addiction.
It's an interesting story, and makes a decent case for local food without being heavy-handed. However, the film doesn't have any particular structure, lacks charisma, and has no sense of urgency. It just floats from person to person, and from subject to subject with little connective material or building towards a call to arms. There are no points made here that haven't been said elsewhere in other more aggressive polemics about the modern system of food production. Further, it's a scant 67 minutes long. The end result is a non-resonant product that has a PBS television special feel to it. When the end credits roll, there's not much to do but shrug your shoulders and move on.
The extras include extra interview footage with Alice Waters, a featurette about "slow food" versus "fast food," and four featurettes about farming and the seasons. They're all quite short and just add a little more to the themes explored in the feature presentation.
The video and audio are pretty basic, but this film wasn't made to cater to people who love high definition video and surround sound systems. The picture quality is passable and the color is decent. The stereo audio delivers what's needed and nothing more.
While there is some interesting material here, Ingredients is a rental at best, unless you are already strong adherent to the slow and local food movement.
Guilty of lacking the ingredients required to make a compelling documentary.
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