Inspiration and thoughts about food from movies

Recently I presented a documentary film festival here on Gabriola ( Even though the movies themselves were not about food, such as Food Inc., I tend to notice food-related activities.

The opening night movie was Occupy Love, what is being called ‘the quintessential movie about the Occupy Movement.’ This was the third of a trilogy of movies by the same director, Velcrow Ripper, who brings not only superb artistry to his moviemaking, but who also very capably expresses his universal spiritual message of love with front-line presence on the scene. In documenting Occupy Wall Street in New York City, he captured the essence of what Zucotti Park had become: a public space signifying ‘freedom of assembly,’ where a large diversity of people were discussing the world’s problems and envisioning solutions together. Every voice was valued. A free library was set up. Electricity was powered by 16 bicycles. They created a waste-water system. And as for food, a makeshift kitchen fed everyone. It was Love in action.

The next morning was Pink Ribbons. Hundreds of thousands of women (and some men) walk, run, jump and do other activities to raise funds to find a cure for breast cancer. The movie implores us to question how these funds are spent. The film reveals that the Pink Ribbons campaign is a powerful marketing tool, for even after years of research, treating breast cancer today is the same as it was 40 years ago, what is referred to as ‘slash, burn and poison.’ We also learned how environmental pollutants contribute to the rise of all cancers. However, what was not mentioned is that unless we eat as pure a diet as possible and drink the purest water, then it’s normal fare to ingest countless poisons on a regular basis. Normal food contains hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides, and it is also irradiated, genetically modified, artificially coloured, or processed with ingredients we can’t pronounce. Is it not naive to believe that this type of food is benign, having no effect on our bodies? Why is cancer research ignoring the quality of our food supply, as if it did not matter at all to our health?

Another movie, called Elemental (from Global Oneness Project), gave us portraits of eco-warriors driven to confront some of the most pressing ecological challenges of our times. We followed a seemingly tireless aboriginal rights activist in northern Alberta organizing her community to campaign against the tar sands, through healing walks, protests and fundraising. After a day of great energy output, she found herself depleted and succumbed to fast food to feed herself and her daughter. Many of us might easily relate to her decision. I sense that the director chose to include this scene in order to show that as much as we may have the best intentions in pursuit of a more just and peaceful world, educating ourselves is a constant. The world’s eaters are on a big learning curve as they discover the horrors of animal cruelty and environmental devastation in industrial meat production—how it pollutes water sources and contributes to global warming through the release of enormous amounts of methane. Instead of that burger, our protagonist would have really appreciated a nice, warm home-cooked meal.

Another hero of Elemental is an Indian man with a Gandhi-like presence on a pilgrimage to clean up the very polluted Ganges, a daunting task. We could really feel his pain on seeing the once-pristine river become a garbage dump. We watch him facing community opposition and his own personal doubts in his attempts to shut down factories, halt construction of dams and rouse the Indian public to treat their sacred ‘Mother Ganga’ with respect. At one point in his pilgrimage, he was fed lunch in a Styrofoam container, which upset him and he rejected it. He urged his companion to do the same and asked that at future stops his food be provided on washable plates, believing that nourishment from food should not contribute to the creation of more garbage.

In Short Cut to Nirvana, we are voyeurs at the 2001 Kumbh Mela in India, the world’s largest peace gathering. Every 12 years, for centuries, millions make a spiritual pilgrimage to the same place, Allahabad, at the confluence of three rivers. (The 2013 festival was starting as we watched.) Over the 42 days of this festival, about 70 million pilgrims arrived to be with teachers and seekers of all kinds, and on auspicious days many bathed in the Ganges (with no thought of it being polluted), believing their sins and those of their ancestors will be absolved and thus end the cycle of rebirth. Ultimately, the movie gave us an uplifting message of harmony, unity and peace for all humanity. And, by the way, there was free food provided. They really know how to feed people in India!

After the earthquake and massive tsunami in December of 2004, I saw photographs of giant cooking pots in the province of Kerala, used to feed survivors. These pots made a big impression on me, and I wonder if they are used in times of disaster in North America. In a movie from our 2011 festival (Saint Misbehavin, The Wavy Gravy Story) we saw hippies from California, from the famous Hog Farm commune, become part of the helping team at the momentous Woodstock music festival (1969). This small group recognized the need to set up a kitchen there, and then proceeded to feed the hungry thousands. I feel proud to be a hippie upon seeing these folks in action.

Yet the great aspirations of the hippie era have not materialized. Violence is rampant and enormous suffering is everywhere. Those in power are firmly entrenched in the ‘greed is good’ mantra made hugely popular by the 1980s movie Wall Street. Just because we can do something, it does not mean we should do it. (GMOs and mining tar sands spring to mind.) We appear to bask in our illusions about how great we are, thinking we are so clever because we are able to perform spectacular feats. Mystic philosopher Eckhart Tolle refers to this as ‘mad intelligence.’

It seems that humans are a grand experiment in consciousness. Now, in observing the mess we have created of our home, the time has come to ‘occupy ourselves,’ to rally our better selves and leave behind all ‘isms’ separating us from our innate spiritual essence. Our lessons are coming at us now fast and furious. Spirituality in action is compassion, a critical message for humanity now. We need to forgive ourselves and stop the arrogant waste of planetary resources so that we can transform that way of being into becoming stewards who caretake the land and water.

Beloved physician/clown/social activist Patch Adams says we must ‘stop making excuses for people who are compromising our lives’, and that we must share the truth. I believe this will arouse our inner warrior spirit to do battle against the powers, such as the handful of corporations controlling our food supply, that seek control over our lives. There are plenty of examples of people fighting the good battle: such as the publishers of this magazine. We are humanity rising. We seek awareness, and express it through conscientious choice and action. This is our birthright, and it’s time to claim it.

Tsiporah Grignon is a Gabriolan of 38 years, and considers herself “an old foodie”. She is a keen observer of our times, through looking at geo-politics, and through her study of Evolutionary Astrology, which offers in-depth insights into our potential as compassionate human beings.