Future of Food, The

Country of Origin:
Format: ,
Running Time: 91 min


Modern agriculture© Lily Films 2009

Modern agriculture involves the monoculture of a small number of crops, rather than a diversity of crop types.
© Lily Films 2009

Deborah Koons Garcia’s The Future of Food examines the recent Green Revolution, a dramatic change in production of food.  Using interviews from people who have worked in corporations that deal with food, government officials, and farmers, as well as footage of working farms, the film illustrates the evolution, or degradation, of food production.

The Future of Food opens with a description of the Green Revolution, during which food production became more mechanized and the use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides increased the yield of common crops.  Agriculture and biotechnology melded soon after, and genetic modification produced crops that were resistant to herbicides, pests, and had higher yields.  At this point, however, the story reveals a darker reality of food production in North America.  Large corporations began to apply for patents on their genetically modified organisms, claiming ownership over their strains of crop.  Unfortunately, as seed spreads from one field to another by wind, insects, or other natural processes, patented plants  grew, unbeknownst to the farmers, on neighboring fields.  Corporations filed lawsuits against farmers, claiming that the farmers had stolen their plants.  Koons uses interviews with farmers who have been taken to court by large agriculture corporations, such as Monsanto, to illustrate the changing field of modern food production.  Many of her interviewees are female farmers who describe how their families and livelihoods have been affected by these lawsuits.

Koons then examines the potential health and environmental effects of genetically modified organisms.  Allergic reactions as a result from taking genes from an allergenic food and inserting them into another food have been reported.  Additionally, the effects of genetically modified plants reproducing and combining their genes with non-genetically modified plants have not been fully studied, and the potential consequences of hybrid plants have the potential to wreak havoc on small- scale subsistence farmers.

This film has a clear message, one that is distrustful of industry and big agriculture, and it questions the place of biotechnology in our food.  However, the film ends on a positive note, describing the rise of the organic movement, farmers’ markets, and community-supported agriculture programs.  Koons encourages viewers to use their consumer power to support local farms.

While there are not a lot of interviews coming from female experts, many personal anecdotes from women pertaining to how GMOs have resulted in an allergic reaction or how the Monsanto lawsuits have affected their lives are used in the documentary.  Using these interviews alongside the interviews coming from men make the effects of GMO more personal because we see that this technology affects everyone associated with it.

This documentary received mixed reviews, with some calling it one-sided, without addressing oppositional views [1].  Others praised the documentary and used it as a rallying point to protest industrialized agriculture [2] [3].

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Adio Kerida (Dir: Ruth Behar, 2004)

Running Time: 82 min

A frame from Adio Kerida
Color, Video, Spanish/English

Subject Headings: documentary, Jewish Cuban, identity, displacement

Adio Kerida (Goodbye Dear Love) follows Ruth Behar on her journey back to Cuba, the country of her birth. Ruth and her Jewish family emigrated from Cuba in the 1960’s after the revolution took place and several members of her family lost their businesses. Behar uses this film to search for a community in which to anchor her identity. In fact, identity is a large theme in her film: the Turkish, Spanish, Ashkenazi and Sephardic identities of her Jewish grandparents, the varying cultural, ethnic, and racial identities of Jewish Cubans, her parents’ identities as Jewish Cubans and immigrants to he United States, and her own identity as an anthropologist, tourist, and native in Cuba.

After the Cuban revolution, even though many Jews left, one the ones that remained kept their religion going strong. As Ruth further uncovers the Jewish community in Cuba, she finds people that her parents and grandparents knew when they lived there. Her depiction of these Jewish Cubans shows a vivid and accepting community staying culturally aware of its past while also integrating with Cuban culture and politics. Behar interviews some Jewish leaders involved in the Revolution. She also tells the stories of many who consider themselves Jewish but come from religiously, culturally, and racially mixed families. After Cuba, Behar travels to Miami and relates to Jewish Cuban Americans also struggling to find their own identities. One woman she talks to always wanted to identify as both white and hispanic and is ultimately able to.

Behar makes displacement a large part of her movie, highlighting stories of happy and sad goodbyes. She interviews several Jewish Cubans deciding to move to Israel, which agrees to relocate them, and although they will miss Cuba, these people are happy to be searching for their own identities. Behar also details the long displacement of her family and ancestors, some starting with the inquisition in Spain in the 15th century. Originally Ruth’s ancestors immigrated to Cuba because the United States would not take them, but Ruth later found out that Cuba allowed them to immigrate in order oppress another group, the Afro-Cubans, by making them a minority. Displacement can produce feelings of dislocation and lost identity, but the movie concludes that it has the possibility to produce surprising and sometimes happy endings. Throughout this entire documentary, runs the theme of mixing cultures and identities, which can only occur when people immigrate to new countries and cultures.

Further Information:
Ruth Behar’s website:
Women Make Movies:

Iron Jawed Angels

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 123 min

Iron Jawed Angels



Based on historical figures and events, Iron Jawed Angels tells the story of Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns (Frances O’Connor), two defiant young activist leaders in the American women’s suffrage movement. The two women break with the traditional suffragist movement and form a more radical faction which uses marches, civil disobedience, and eventually a hunger strike to pursue the ultimate goal of getting Congress to pass a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. The film begins as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns meet with the leaders of National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), including Carrie Chapman Catt (Anjelica Huston), to discuss tactics. NAWSA’s strategy is to focus on obtaining suffrage on a state-by-state basis, whereas the two younger women believe that they should be pushing for the more radical national amendment. While Alice Paul and Lucy Burns are initially allied with NAWSA, their failure to resolve the issue of tactics eventually results in their group’s breaking off from the national organization to form their own party – the National Women’s Party (NWP). Unlike NAWSA, the NWP engages in “radical” tactics that the more conservative NAWSA considers uncivilized and counterproductive to the cause. They endure harsh criticism from NAWSA and the public at large, the peak of which comes when members of the NWP decide to continue an ongoing picket of the White House after the United States declares war. This decision ultimately leads to the arrest of the suffragists on bogus charges of “obstructing traffic.” In jail, the suffragists endure harsh conditions and inhumane treatment. Inspired by Alice Paul, they begin a hunger strike in protest. Afraid of martyring Alice Paul, the jail brutally force feeds her and, after the women manage to leak this news outside of the jail, momentum builds for their movement. Ultimately, the women are successful in convincing President Woodrow Wilson to endorse women’s suffrage as a “war measure.” Thus, Congress passes the19th Amendment, allowing women to vote. Throughout the film, Alice’s ability to inspire women to act and join in the movement is highlighted. She is portrayed as a strong, commanding woman who perseveres in the face of tremendous adversity and gives up everything in pursuit of her cause. She only falters once, when her friend and fellow suffragist Inez Mulholland (Julia Ormond) dies. Believing she pushed Inez too hard, Alice blames herself and almost loses hope. At this point, Lucy Burns is able to restore her determination, and the two women fight on.A great strength of the film is its focus on the personal connections between characters and the inner struggles of Alice Paul. Thus, it turns what is usually portrayed as dry history into an engaging story. Rather than using a more traditional documentary form, von Garnier uses a compelling narrative, well-known actors, and modern music to capture the viewer’s interest. The net effect is a truly engaging film that brings the energy and excitement of a past movement to modern viewers.

Further Information

Official Website:

Links to Reviews:

IMDB Listing:

Swarthmore Connection:


Adams, Katherine H, and Michael L Keene. Alice Paul and the American Suffrage Campaign. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.Irwin, Inez Haynes. Story of Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party. Fairfax: Denlingers Publishers Ltd, 1977Lunardini, Christine A.. From Equal Suffrage to Equal Rights: Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party, 1910-1928 (American Social Experience). New York: iUniverse, 1986.

Yes (Dir: Sally Potter, 2004)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 100 min



Release Date: September 4, 2004 at the Telluride Film Festival (USA)

Original format: 35 mm film 


Spoken entirely in verse, Yes is about an Irish-American woman (Joan Allen) who is tired of her loveless marriage (with actor Sam Neill) and begins a passionate affair with a Lebanese man (Simon Abkarian). Set in the present day in the UK, the film follows the two lovers as they face the reality of their relationship – and ultimately their differences – in the larger context of the complicated international climate and the relationship between the West and the East. As the story progresses, Potter highlights the cultural divide between the pair, making the longevity of their intense relationship seem impossible – which is emphasized by an explosive and emotional scene where the two discuss what they as individuals represent to the world. The film exhibits an experimental approach as Potter plays with unique camera angels and film speeds that reinforce the moods she tries to create and showcase the beautifully orchestrated cinematography.

While the movie focuses greatly on the couple, it is clear that the film is an opportunity for Potter to work through her thoughts about the current state of international affairs – as the US enters into war in the Middle East – and human nature. The film touches on a multitude of different issues including lies and misperception, the role of women (as mothers, wives, etc.), female body image, and isolation. In addition, throughout the entire film, Potter creatively uses the role of female cleaners who play the role of the Greek chorus as they observe the story as passive and transparent characters. Specifically, the main woman’s housecleaner (Shirley Henderson) provides an ongoing commentary about the dirt that never disappears but is just moved around.

After traveling the globe to Beirut and Havana, Yes ends on a hopeful, yet surreal, note about the potential to overcome great divides.


  • Cultural divides between the West and East (such as religion, money, etc.)
  • Forbidden romance/affair
  • Post-9/11 world
  • Relationships/Interactions
  • Misperception – Lies, miscommunication and “dirt”
  • Iambic pentameter
  • Identity


Resources about the film

  • Lucia, Cynthia. “Saying ‘Yes’ to Taking Risks: an Interview with Sally Potter.” Cineaste 30 (2005): 24-32.
  • Potter, Sally, John Berger, and Pankaj Mishra. Yes: Screenplay and Notes. New York: Newmarket P, 2005.

Resources about post-9/11 film

  • Dixon, Wheeler W., ed. Film and Television After 9/11. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2004.
  • Rich, B. Ruby. “After the Fall: Cinema Studies Post-9/11.” Cinema Journal 43 (2004): 109-116.