Hot Docs 2014: Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story – Documentary Review
Director: Grant Baldwin Country: Canada Runtime: 75 min Rating: G
Many documentaries strive to entertain as they educate, yet not all achieve this difficult feat. Furthermore, it is only the rare piece of film that actually has a tangible effect, successfully prompting a change in the thinking or actions of its audience. Nonfiction filmmaker Grant Baldwin’s Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story (2014) is a fantastic new documentary that has the potential to dramatically alter the way in which people approach food and its waste. This piece offers an eye-opening look at a very serious matter, addressing a problem many may be unaware even exists, and then provides some wholly possible solutions and simple suggestions for improvement.
Just Eat It follows likeable everyday people Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin as they vow to stop buying groceries and attempt to survive exclusively off of discarded food for six whole months. As their story progresses, Baldwin also takes time to reveal shocking truths as he includes interviews with experts in the food production industry such as chefs, farmers, gleaners, and environmentalists who all have something to say on the topic of food waste. Many hidden processes and policies are shown, and a viewer is forced to reconsider the way in which they view the buying, using, and discarding of the food that they need to consume every single day.
This film begins with an immediately fun and energetic vibe, promising to be a welcoming and highly accessible documentary. Jen and Grant prove to be down-to-Earth and relatable hosts who walk the viewer through their story with help from the specialists and experts who serve to effectively validate their points and arguments. Scenes showing Jen and Grant’s frustrations with their project remind a viewer that they are just like us, and one really does find oneself rooting for their success as they face various setbacks and challenges. That which they discover will probably come as a surprise to the viewer, and one easily shares in the couple’s emotional responses.
This film is notable because it does more than simply educate; it entertains as well. The work is beautifully filmed in a highly artistic manner, causing it to please the eye in a way that many non-nature documentaries simply don’t. A surprisingly upbeat, recognizable soundtrack also adds to the overall enjoyment of the work. Although pleasure should not necessarily be the primary goal of non-fiction film, its inclusion is an effective strategy here. One is more likely to pay attention and be open to the facts presented if they are done so in an enjoyable manner. Not once did I find my attention wandering during this film, and this accomplishment was due to the high production value as well as the fascinating topic.
The fact that an entire third of the world’s food supply is unnecessarily going to waste is both shocking and upsetting, and is made even more so by poignant documentaries such as Just Eat It. The real value in this work, however, lies in its conclusion: there is hope. Instead of being preachy and offering condemnation, this film adopts an experimental and inclusive tone that makes one feel empowered and inspired. The film ends by offering simple suggestions for improvement and ultimately proves that change in entirely possible and easily achievable. It can only be hoped that this educational, entertaining, and potentially life-changing film will reach a wide audience, for if it does, a revolution in the way we eat surely is inevitable.