The good news about this year’s Planet In Focus film festival is that there actually seems to be good news.
It’s true that 2016 hasn’t felt like humanity’s finest hour. But rather than pandering to the gathering darkness, the 17th edition of the annual environmental film festival has curated a lineup of documentaries that suggest we might be able to adapt our way to a better, brighter future. I’d certainly like to believe that.
That better tomorrow starts with people deciding to help one another, the way chef Massimo Bottura does in Theater Of Life, which opens the festival Thursday (October 20) at 6:30 pm at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.
Peter Svatek’s doc follows the restaurateur as he establishes the Refettorio Ambrosiano at the 2015 Milan World’s Fair – a high-end soup kitchen that repurposes surplus food from the event’s other eateries into meals for the dispossessed.
This project isn’t a publicity stunt, but a real investment of craft, skill and time, and Svatek shows us both the practical challenges Bottura and his associates must work through – how can they incorporate stale ingredients into a dish people will enjoy? – and the Refettorio’s very real impact on the people it serves. It’s an involving process documentary that’s also a deeply satisfying story of kindness.
Food is an element of another program at the festival, though this one’s a little less appealing. The Danish documentary Bugs, screening Friday (October 21) at 7 pm at Innis Town Hall, looks at the inevitability of expanding the human diet to include insects. As our population skyrockets, we’re gonna need to redefine our concept of protein, and this is where the smart thinking starts.
Andreas Johnsen’s doc follows three gastronomists into the growing culture of entomophagy, balancing every squirming, multi-legged gross-out moment with insight into food prep and presentation. (A word of warning: if you get squicky around insects, you might not want to see this on Innis’s very large screen.)
Saturday (October 22) at 1 pm at Innis, Velentin Thurn picks up the thread in 10 Billion: What’s On Your Plate?, a look at future food sources in which insects are just one element.
Planet In Focus isn’t just about food this year, mind you. A pair of documentaries screening Friday (October 21) at the AGO consider the appeal of serenity and peace in an increasingly cacophonous world.
At 6:30 pm, Sebastien Chabot’s The Gardener profiles Quebec horticulturalist Francis Cabot, who created a stunning English-style garden called Les Quatre Vents on 20 acres of his family’s land in Charlevoix. Patrick Shen’s In Pursuit Of Silence, screening at 9 pm, looks at the relatively new societal problem of noise pollution in a film that alternates between chaos and quiet, exploring ways we can be overwhelmed by our aural environments – and ways to escape.
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