It’s becoming a tradition of sort that TCFF kicks off the film fest with a documentary about an important subject. Our first year we have the education-themed Waiting for Superman, the second year we screened Bully which tackles the topic of peer-to-peer bullying in schools across America. This year is no different, A Place At the Table, which takes a look at America’s hunger crisis. It debuted at Sundance under the name Finding North, and Magnolia Pictures has recently acquired the US rights to distribute the powerful documentary from Participant Media, directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush.
TCFF is more than just about films. Each year, executive director Jatin Setia looks for a relevant topic for the film fest to focus on, and he was adamant to showcase A Place At The Table when he saw it at Sundance. Thanks to his and fellow organizers’ persistence, we not only have the film premiere here, but also present an Education Panel discussing this ever-so-important topic. Moderated by MPR reporter Julie Siple, the panelists last evening includes Lori Kratchmer, executive director of the Emergency Food Shelf; Jackie Olafson, executive director of St. Louis Park Emergency Program; Rob Zeaski, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland; and last but definitely not least, Lori Silverbush, co-director of A Place at the Table.
To say it was an eye-opening discussion is putting it mildly. It’s interesting how when people hear the word ‘hunger’ they immediately think of malnourished kids with flies hovering around them in Africa. But the fact of the matter is, hunger strikes even here in America. The documentary shows that one in four children here in the US don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and the panelists expand a little bit what that means and what people might not know is contributing to that very problem.
“Fifty million Americans – that’s not a fringe, that’s not the screw-ups, that’s not the people you probably have in your head as the hungry people – 50 million Americans have to wonder, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, how they’re going to get food on the table for their families. And that’s energy they’re not devoting to their work, to parenting, to their communities. It’s a great drain.” – Lori Silverbush (quote from MPR article by Julie Siple)
I’m very impressed with director Lori Silverbush, she’s very knowledgeable about her subject matter, and she’s got such strong convictions about what she thinks contributed to the problem in the first place and she’s not afraid to let it be known. It really shows in the film as well, it’s a well-crafted documentary that follows various families across America who are dealing with hunger, and also includes interviews from leading hunger experts such as Stuffed and Starved author Raj Patel, Sweet Charity? author Janet Poppendieck, actor Jeff Bridges, Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, as well as Congressman James McGovern who’ve taken a leadership role in the fight against hunger at home and abroad.
Silverbush shared that the problem of hunger carries such a great stigma, she saw as she made the film that people all often too ashamed to even go to the food shelter, and some families can’t even bear the thought of getting food stamps.
“One of our biggest surprises in making the film is that hardworking people, people who are playing by all the rules, and absolutely fulfilling their end of the social contract as most people would describe it, are still not able to get by,”
I will post the video of the panel as it becomes available, but I really urge you to see this documentary when it opens in your cities. This is easily one of the best documentaries I’ve seen, right up there with one of my favorite, The Cove in terms of entertainment + insight level. Even though it covers a bleak topic, it’s presented in such a way that it’s not at all tedious. Right from the opening sequence with gorgeous aerial shots, the cinematography is beautiful. The transitions from one family and another, alternating it with various interviews, are done seamlessly that it doesn’t feel jarring or jumpy.
Review from TCFF blogger Emery Thoresen:
Between the Education Panel before and the Director Q & A after the screening, the message was communicated; we need to change how our country deals with food – especially in the school systems. The word “politics” was repeated over and over, and if that is where the blame lies, it is our job to take the initiative and do our part; contact our representatives and vote in the right direction in this upcoming election.
The cause is noble, the issues are presented clearly, but there weren’t solid solutions given that would have sure results. The director did speak about what we should do in terms of politics, but she went on to discuss the issues with food charities. The major conglomerates that back many of the well known food organizations distribute their own food, which generally consist of empty calories. Its a self perpetuating situation; people are malnourished, they seek help, and the help that they receive provides in the most minimal way.
Aside from the shocking statistics and real life testimony, the most memorable part of the night was one of the directors, Lori Silverbush. Her partner in crime (Kristi Jacobson) was not present for the screening, but I can only imagine what the two women would be like in the same room. Lori was extremely eloquent and nothing that came out of her mouth was fluff. During the Education Panel and Questioning after the screening she answered all the questions without being redundant or spoiling the ending.
Documentary films are not my forte, but what I saw was worth it. Pretty scenery, good testimonies (Jeff Bridges is far from being the focal point), and clear presentation.
There are more great films playing at TCFF. Get your tickets now!
Thank you Lori Silverbush for presenting such a well-crafted documentary that covers such a crucial topic, and TCFF’s Jatin Setia & co. for bringing this film to the premiere!!