Posted by lemonjelly on:
While other films in the Screen Cuisine sidebar of the SBIFF are quick to present the conflict that drives the films' stories, then rush to a positive solution, Taste the Waste is grim nearly all throughout. It reminds me of East European films that start out bad, get quickly worse and at the climax everyone is kicked in the face. The resolution is that they only lose half their teeth.
The bulk of the film presents the obscene, almost criminal, amounts of perfectly edible food that is thrown away in our global commodity food system. But it's not criminal at all. In fact, it's not only perfectly legal, but driven by the exacting demands of wholesalers and retails and, in some cases, the food is required by law to be destroyed rather than redistributed to others who could use it.
Take the bakery owner, under contract to keep his bakery in a grocery store fully stocked at all times, even the last hour of the day. All that beautiful bread needed to keep up the appearance of abundance is hauled to the trash in the evening. The baker is one of the lucky ones in this film - he has found a solution that converts the leftover bread back into fuel that powers the ovens.
Taste the Waste is quick to point out that this unused food has many levels of lost resources. Not just the value of the discarded apple or banana, but all the energy put into producing it, including the soil and nutrients, and the wasted human labor.
The film's subject matter spans multiple countries, the people in it speak French, German, English, and more. Often, the people interviewed express guilt and remorse over what they must throw away for their business. A German farmer is relieved when he sees scavengers pick up potatoes that were discarded by him because these potatoes suffered the imperfection of being too big.
In many ways, Taste the Waste is preaching to the choir. It's not presenting anything new to those of us who already have a modest amount of interest in the topic. It does vividly demonstrate the horrifying scope of food waste in first world countries and it makes its viewers recognize how complacent we are in perpetuating these industry standards. It's true - if we are buying some apples in the market, even our local farmers' markets, we naturally select the most flawless of the lot. So why would a wholesaler make the investment in something we have defined as unmarketable?
It's a good film, one to watch with your children or show in class. But it's grim and depressing and hard on our American sensitivities that want to see a happy ending. It makes me think there's no hope for our society. I'd understand if you'd hesitate on spending a few hours of your time and one of your precious film passes on this one. Taste the Waste lays bare how messed up our commodity food system is. The solution is still far away. If this was an East European film, I just got half my teeth kicked out, and the remaining half got cavities, and the fillings for them gave me mercury poisoning.
But there's always tomorrow.
Taste the Waste is part of the Screen Cuisine series of the SBIFF. This is its US Premiere.
8:00 pm, Wednesday, 1 Feb. Metro 4.
8:05 am, Thursday, 2 Feb. Metro 2.
11:00 am, Saturday, 4 Feb. Metro 4.