Fair Food movement takes Berlin by storm!

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Compelling new documentary, “Food Chains,” premieres at 2014 Berlin Film Festival to sold-out screenings, generates serious buzz at star-studded festival…

 

What happens when Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker, Golden Globe Award nominee Eva Longoria, best-selling author Eric Schlosser, and an incredibly talented and dedicated crew of filmmakers and producers join forces to tell the story of farm labor exploitation behind the 21st century supermarket industry and of the growing Fair Food movement fighting to end that exploitation?  

“Food Chains,” the exciting new documentary featuring the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food, is what happens, and this past week it premiered to rave reviews at the Berlin Film Festival!  We won’t be able to see the film stateside for a few months to come, but you can catch a quick peek — a two minute clip released exclusively for the CIW website — by clicking on the video above.  Much of the film’s action takes place around the 2012 Fast for Fair Food, with the Publix campaign serving as a backdrop for a broader analysis of farmworker conditions in the food industry today and the success of the Fair Food Program in addressing those conditions.

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Final touches were put on the film in the days before the festival, including recording Forest Whitaker’s narration in Los Angeles (Mr. Whitaker is pictured here during the recording session with Food Chains director Sanjay Rawal, right, and executive producer David Damian) and some last minute nips and tucks (including a coda on the Walmart agreement that truly brings the film as close to real time as a documentary can come).  

Then, a high profile story in the Hollywood Reporter, “Berlin: Eva Longoria Pushes ‘Food Chains’ to Raise Awareness,” cast a spotlight on the film just ahead of its premiere, with Ms. Longoria explaining why she joined the team as an executive producer (she also appears in the film):

… Longoria has been an outspoken advocate for farm workers rights for many years. “Long before I was famous,” the actress told THR. She has spoken to Congress and campaigned for fair work legislation for U.S. farmworkers. Longoria also produced the 2011 documentary Harvest, which looks at the fate of the hundreds of thousands of children that work as migrant laborers in the U.S. food industry.

“There’s more interest in food than ever before. Everyone is about organic and local and ‘I don’t eat Gluten.’ but no thought is put to the people who pick the food that feeds us all.” 

red_carpetFinally, this past Monday, it was time for the film’s moment of truth — its premiere as an official selection of the Berlin Film Festival.  Would it be thumbs up or down for the documentary, shot on a shoestring budget and focused on the efforts of a grassroots farmworker movement from a forgotten town in rural Florida?…

The verdict: The screening was sold out, and the audience response was overwhelmingly positive!  Here’s director Sanjay Rawal (shown with his production crew on the red carpet in Berlin, from left to right Smriti Keshari, Erin Barnett, Sanjay Rawal, Forest Woodward, and Carl Banks) on his impressions of the experience, and on his plans for the broader distribution of the film in the US:

“When we came to the Berlinale for the premiere of Food Chains we had no idea of what to expect.  Firstly, our film focuses on tomatoes and Florida and doesn’t even mention the issues of low wage workers in Germany.  Surprisingly however the story of the Fair Food Program captivated audiences here.  They immediately saw the critical importance of the Movement for workers everywhere. We were deluged by the press here which kept asking when they can expect the Fair Food Program to be on farms in Europe!  We are now planning a nationwide launch in the US in the fall. We can’t wait!”

The buzz around “Food Chains” at the festival the rest of the week was indeed strong.  Following the premiere, the CIW’s Greg Asbed (left) was invited to join Diego Luna (shown speaking here, star of the popular film “Y Tu Mama También” and director of a new biopic on Cesar Chavez that also premiered in Berlin), Eric Schlosser (right), and the former German Minister of Culture Michael Naumann (middle) in a well-attended panel on farm labor and the food industry, pictured here below:

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The panel and a slew of television and radio interviews during the week kept the film on people’s minds, leading to yet another sold-out audience for the film’s second screening on Friday.  

All in all, the film was a huge success, and the festival should serve as a perfect springboard for its launch here in the US in the months ahead.  We will keep you abreast of news on the film’s distribution and screenings as plans started in Berlin continue to take shape.  Until then, we leave you with one more quick excerpt from “Food Chains,” coming to a theater near you this fall…