So I’m finally getting round to watching Our Daily Bread, a documentary about the food industry that is by now pretty old hat (it’s from 2005, and the present continuous tense is purposeful: the film is playing on the TV right now, as I write this on the couch, laptop on lap – as it should be).
Having read plenty of reviews, I was prepared for the worst, and even feared that eating popcorn would be a bad idea. I needn’t have bothered. It’s basically a montage of various food industrial clips: people picking tomatoes, gathering semen from bulls, sorting good little chicks from bad little chicks, pigs on their way to slaughter, and not to forget the human beings who do the sorting and slaughtering and semen collection, whom we get to see on their breaks, having a fag outside or a sandwich in a canteen.
There is no dialogue, no commentary, no music. In fact for an “award-winning documentary,” it’s pretty damn boring. It’s not that I need suspense – I watched, and was totally mesmerised by, the film about the famous headbutter Zidane, which really is boring from a narrative point of view (imagine a soccer match where you only watch one person, and he does basically nothing) – but watching a series of clips about where our food comes from is about as interesting to me as watching a film about the inner workings of a toilet.
Fine, there are arguments about how little people know (or care about) what they put in their mouths, and about us modernites being alienated from nature, about forgetting that a hunk of 22-hour braised pork belly was once inside little living breathing piggies. But films like this are not going to change that. Films like this only exist – and can only exist – as a result of that same culture. It depends on people being stupid about their food in order to make an impact.
Actually the one thing I did find fascinating (the film is finished now, thankfully) was all the sophisticated machinery used for gutting animals – piggies, fish, you name it. Technology really can be wondrous stuff.