There is an aspect of theater to food (otherwise, how to explain the Food Network?)—the depiction of victuals is almost as compelling as their consumption. This truth is behind the Real Food Film Series, a trio of documentaries about the multitudinous aspects of food. The films, which began in August and continue into September, examine the agricultural, political, economic, culinary, and aesthetic aspects of what we eat.
The series is presented by the Chatham Real Food Market Co-op in Chatham, New York, a membership-based store that is still in the development stage. The co-op is currently in the process of building membership and funds in order to open. The vision is to become a community-owned outlet for the products of local farmers and kitchens, as a means of strengthening the agricultural base and the economy of the rural community. The cooperative is a project of Community Agriculture of Columbia County, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “re-localizing” the food system.
“Part of the whole idea of the co-op is to help build the community,” says Susan Davies, one of the chief organizers of the film series, who believes the series will do its part to bring Chatham residents closer together.
The films will be shown at the 15 Church Street site of the proposed co-op, currently the location of the Chatham Farmers Market on Fridays. The films begin at 7:30, just after the market closes.
The series kicked off on August 10 with Black Gold, a documentary on coffee production in Ethiopia. That was followed on August 24 by The Future of Food, an in-depth investigation into the genetically engineered foods that are inhabiting more and more of US grocery shelves.
The series takes a turn from the political to the sublime on September 7 with Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers, director Les Blank’s 57-minute-long ode to the “stinking rose.” The San Francisco Chronicle raved that the film is “a joyous, nose-tweaking, ear-tingling, mouth-watering tribute to a life force.” Pretty good for an allium that manhandles your breath.
The 1981 film is narrated by Alice Waters, founder of the famous Chez Panisse Restaurant and Cafe in Berkeley. In the 1970s, Waters revolutionized the restaurant business by emphasizing nutrition as a basis of her menu planning. She was a pioneer in the ethos that has driven the food co-op movement for the past three decades. “Food and nourishment are right at the point where human rights and the environment intersect,” Waters has written. “Everyone should have the right to wholesome, affordable food.”
Blank’s documentary was filmed mostly at the celebrated Gilroy Garlic Festival, held each year in northern California. The director recommends the film be viewed in “aromaround,” meaning garlic should be stewing while the movie is rolling. The Real Food folks plan to take Blank’s advice and will cook up a variety of garlic dishes for enjoyment après film. Admission is free for members and $3 for non-members. (518) 392-5535;