A PLACE AT THE TABLE (Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush). 84 minutes. Opens Friday (April 5) at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See listings. Rating: NNN
Fifty million Americans without enough to eat is an outrageous statistic, so why does A Place At The Table feel decidedly less than outraged? The documentary deals with the gross discrepancies between the well fed and the barely fed in what is ostensibly the world's wealthiest nation.
Co-directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush weave together a handful of astute, occasionally famous talking heads (Jeff Bridges, Raj Patel, Tom Colicchio), some deeply sympathetic yet finally anecdotal case studies of American hunger and some handsome heartland aerial shots.
Government subsidies favour mega-producers over mom-and-pops, which leads to dirt-cheap junk food and luxury-priced produce, which leads to larders full of sugar, salt and fat, which leads to the seemingly nonsensical coexistence of hunger and obesity, sometimes in the same individual.
A Place At The Table makes it abundantly clear that agricultural policies provide corporate welfare at the expense of public health. But these appalling revelations are presented in a staid, informative manner, as dull and nourishing as a plate of overcooked, unseasoned veggies.
There seems to be a resistance to naming names or pointing fingers at obvious culprits. The cumulative effect is one of facts over friction, making this journeyman-like effort simultaneously a must-see and not much of a movie.