I seldom watch documentaries. When I do it’s because I am feeling particularly ambitious about proving to Netflix that it does not know me that well because if it did the “Top Picks for PIli” would include films that hint I have a working intellect and am a socially-conscious lady.
Naturally, when I got the opportunity to attend a Food Chains screening I was psyched. Really, I was. I was even more surprised to realize that even if I had the option of pausing the screen (which I didn’t) I wouldn’t have exercised it. Food Chains is direct about its subject matter and specific in detailing the ways you can help.
Executive produced by Eva Longoria, directed by Sanjay Rawal, with explanations by Eric Schlosser and narrated by Forest Whitaker, Food Chains documents the positive changes the The Fair Food Program (FFP) has created in the agricultural labor industry while showcasing its still existing dehumanizing practices, i.e picking 40 buckets full of tomatoes, getting paid $0.50 a bucket, and being sexually harassed in the fields. The FFP was founded in 2001 by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a group of badass Florida tomato pickers who refused to accept the status quo. They formulated a plan, stuck with it and affected change.
The CIW figured out that if farmers, farm workers, and food companies came together they could ensure living wages and decent conditions for tomato pickers. Amongst other things, they drew up a code of conduct, a farming constitution if you will. Within two years they got the likes of Wal-Mart and every big fast food chain, except Wendy’s, (a fact that makes Longoria sad considering she worked there) to sign their agreement.
There is still a lot to be done about inhumane labor practices in the agricultural industry at a national level. The documentary focuses solely on Immokalee, Florida but seen from a birds eye view, Food Chains gives us an easily understood and effective model for big picture change.
Since the film is all about the tomato pickers who fought to shake up the agricultural industry, here are 4 things I learned about tomatoes.
UPDATE 5/18/17: You can see a special one-hour version of Food Chains on June 8, 2017 at UnionDocs in Brooklyn. It will screen together with the short film Delano Manongs on the Filipino pickers who started the famous grape boycott in 1965 and a clip of the upcoming documentary about activist Dolores Huerta, Dolores. The screening is organized by Remezcla and Skylight as part of the [email protected] #Resist Film Series.