Documentary Food Films: An Update

by Sarah Henry on March 14, 2013 · 7 comments

in food events,food films,food politics,food security

Feeding family: A scene from "A Place at the Table." Photo: Magnolia Pictures

When I started this blog four years ago now, I would never have guessed that my most popular post to date would be a top 10 list of documentary food films.

But it is. That post from March 2010 has garnered more reader feedback than any before or after. In the three years since I wrote it, a ton of nonfiction food and farm films have shown up in movie theaters around the country. And over the years, readers have weighed in in support of such diverse films as Forks Over Knives, The World According to Monsanto, and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. (For more reader picks, check out the comment thread on that post.)

Honestly, it’s hard to keep up with all the food films out there, though I have covered many documentaries of interest in the intervening years (see below).

It feels timely to revisit the subject of nonfiction food films in light of a recent national doco film release and a local upcoming food film festival:

A Place at the Table: This documentary by filmmakers Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbrush explores hunger in the U.S. through the stories of a handful of subjects. Viewers meet Rosie, a 5th grader from a small town in Colorado, who finds it hard to concentrate in school because she’s so desperate for something to eat that she sometimes pictures her fellow students and teacher as pieces of fruit.  Actor and anti-hunger advocate Jeff Bridges pops up on the screen and doesn’t mince words: He maintains that making sure all Americans have enough nourishing food to eat is a patriotic issue. It’s a crime really, that in the land of plenty millions go without a decent meal. The challenge isn’t simply one of insufficient food: In many parts of the country people are both food insecure (lacking access to fresh, healthful food) and obese. Available on demand and on iTunes.

Oh, and if you want to put down the remote and do something proactive, might I suggest events like California’s Hunger Action Day on May 22.

Food & Farm Film Fest: Over three days, March 29-31, six film programs (both fiction and nonfiction works) will be shown In San Francisco, each with a food pairing from a restaurant in the city’s Mission District. Bites come courtesy of such popular nosh spots as Delfina, Mission Pie, and Frances (dishing up Ratatouille, natch, after a screening of the movie with the same name). The festival is a collaboration between long-time independent arthouse Roxie theater, modern locavore-loving green grocer Bi-Rite, and Three Squares, a nonprofit that promotes healthy eating for all, whose programs and people I’ve covered in the past. Proceeds from the event support Three Squares work teaching low-income folks how to cook. A shout out in particular for the short film program on Saturday afternoon.

Have a favorite documentary food film or an opinion about a popular nonfiction food flick? Oh, yes you do. Chime in below.

You might also like:

10 Top Documentary Food Films
CIR Serves Up the Hidden Cost of Hamburgers
Growing Cities: An Edible Field Trip and Urban Farm Film
Weight of the Nation: Battle of the Bulge Comes to Cable
A Tale of Two Totally Different PBS Programs
Toast: A Slice of Nigel Slater’s Life Comes to the Screen
Corner Store: Film Explores Community Hub and Home
Food Forward: A Sustainable TV Show for All Americans
It’s Gettin’ Real in the Whole Foods Parking Lot
What’s on Your Plate? Food for Thought for All Ages
Food, Inc. May Make You Lose Your Lunch
Food Stamped: A Film For Our Times
A Shout Out for The Garden
Favorite Food Films


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Shelby March 15, 2013 at 8:31 am

Hungry For Change

I recommend this regularly to patients… and it always provokes positive change!
Fortunately, it is accessible on NetFlix. It will also be available for free online viewing later this month.


Sarah Henry March 16, 2013 at 8:46 am

Thanks for passing that on, Shelby.


Catherine March 16, 2013 at 7:15 am

Funny that this should be posted this weekend. Last night and today we have the Sacramento Food Film Festival. It’s our 2nd year after I realized that I was missing out on a lot of these films. Chicago and NY also have food film festivals. We have made a real effort to add participatory events this year. Last night – Quest for Local honey with a honey tasting and Jiro Dreams of Sushi with sushi tasting with Sac’s two best sushi restaurants.


Sarah Henry March 16, 2013 at 8:47 am

Hi, Catherine, good to know about other food film festivals around the state. In San Francisco the CAAM festival also has a food focus this year with a program of fiction and nonfiction shorts called Emotional Eaters. Showings last night 3/15 and again on Saturday 3/23:


amee March 19, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Food inc is still the one that struck me the hardest, although, I haven’t seen all of the ones you listed. I LOVE food documentaries but they can be quite depressing. And I don’t need to intensify my hate for Monsanto than I already do!!
This one is on my list for the weekend.
I heard you are speaking at Camp Blogaway!! I hope you have a great time and I’ll be thinking of you!
hugs from dallas! (from me, specifically, not the whole city)
amee´s last [type] ..Restaurant Review: Fujiyama Sushi & Yakitori Bar


Sarah Henry March 21, 2013 at 10:37 am

hey, amee, lovely to hear from you. appreciate your point re the depressing factor but oftentimes these films provide ideas and an impetus for change too.


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