As the movie listings fill up with more food films than ever before, it’s tough to know what’s worth your time. As the new movies roll out this summer and fall, we’ll be watching and letting you know which is worth your time.
Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert has everything you’d expect of a modern foodie persuasionist: a hip dad haircut, a Volkswagen van, an affinity for T-shirts, and adorable young children to drive the urgency of food morality home. (Plus, there’s the incredible bonus of having a son obsessed with seed collecting and food sources, and another who prefers to sleep in Beatles T-shirts).
All in all, Seifert and his adorable family are the perfect recipe for creating a film that delves into the genre of food system awareness and dissent, first amplified by Michael Pollan, Tracy McMillan and others. And “GMO” is the misunderstood buzzword of the moment in our roster of food system plagues, allegedly making up 80 percent of our processed foods.
Following the film festival success of Dive, Seifert’s 2010 debut film about dumpster diving, GMO OMG was produced by his own production company Compeller Pictures and sponsored by upbeat moralistic brands like Chipotle, Patagonia, and Horizon Organic (plus a few dozen Kickstarter supporters).
Seifert, who bears a striking resemblance to Peter Dinklage, utilizes a type of filmmaking that is at times obvious. He enters the film as a “concerned father” and employs man-on-the street montages for evidence of ignorance. He interviews the consciences of his 6-year-old son Finn and 4-year-old son Scout, in order to slowly piece together the initial question: If we don’t know what GMOs are, how do we know if we’re eating them?
While the information Seifert gleans on his journey is scary—even shocking—it’s anything but Michael Moore-ish.
That and a larger query—what GMOs are and how they affect us—leads Seifert on a quest that spans Monsanto’s Missouri headquarters, Haiti, Iowa, Washington D.C., Norway, and France. His experts imply that GMOs can be linked to breast tumors, kidney and liver damage, lowered immune defense, increased allergen production—not to mention environmental tolls, which some believe include recent phenomena like the mass death of bees. All of this is going on, he says, while our genetically modified food continues to be largely unlabeled.
Unsurprisingly, like so many before him, Seifert is led back to the same answer—big money. Agro-giants like Syngenta, Monsanto, Down and DuPont come under fire as the footprints of our over-producing, poisonous food system leads back to their profits. In his video testament to their opacity on the cons of GMOs, Seifert is unceremoniously kicked out of the Monsanto lobby. His take down of the American way of eating even includes Whole Foods, which can’t deny over the phone that some of its non-organic processed foods likely contain genetically modified corn or soy.
But while the information Seifert gleans on his journey is scary—even shocking—it’s anything but Michael Moore-ish. The film carefully deals with issues like seed patenting as a moral violation of human rights to food, and casts the right to grow untarnished food as a cultural issue. For many of these points, he relies on his on-camera sources, not all of whom are experts in the particular area of questioning.
But Seifert’s style of filmmaking readily admits what it doesn’t know. Instead, he goes for emotional ploys and mass corroboration in his unsubtle but gentle brand of documentary. What we get is a film that’s meaningfully structured and thought provoking. And while he doesn’t answer all of his questions about the largely undocumented effects of GMOs, Seifert concludes that it should at least make us want to know more.
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