THE FRUIT HUNTERS (Yung Chang, Canada). 90 minutes. Some subtitles. November 17, 7 pm, Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.
Yung Chang follows the moody, contemplative China Heavyweight with this globe-trotting look at exotic fruit enthusiasts who seek to rescue, preserve and cultivate their favourite produce. One of them is the actor Bill Pullman, whose attempts to create a community orchard on unused land in his Hollywood Hills neighbourhood give the documentary its narrative spine.
If you've ever wondered why people eat the foul-smelling durian or what drives a person to trek into Borneo in search of a spiky plumlike thing seen only in photographs, you'll find plenty to like in The Fruit Hunters. Just be warned that it's a little more whimsical than Chang's previous projects, and whimsy isn't something he does terribly well.
Costume-drama tableaux illustrating ancient cultures' relationships to fruit and the occasional cutesy animation (as when Pullman envisions his dream orchard and is showered with CG apples, oranges and apricots) are a little too cheesy to coexist comfortably with Chang's contemplative voice-over about how fruit studies us as much as we study it. But as The Fruit Hunters demonstrates, there's no accounting for taste.