In their hugely entertaining sophomore effort "Just Eat It," Canadian filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer embark upon a journey to uncover the realities behind one of North America’s most startling environmental crises: food waste.
In their first documentary foray, "The Clean Bin Project" (2010), Baldwin and Rustemeyer called attention to waste reduction by aspiring to buy nothing and produce virtually no trash for an entire year. This time, the couple agrees to forsake their usual eating habits for six months, vowing to consume only foods that others have discarded.
Audiences will be simultaneously flabbergasted and entertained by the amount of perfectly edible waste the couple discovers along the way – including relatively fresh (and certainly edible) eggs discarded at Whole Foods, cases of chocolate (discarded purely because of a labeling mishap) and dumpsters filled with prepackaged hummus that’s still almost a month away from expiration.
The film traces the couples' adventure from day 1, when they glean bags of groceries from Baldwin's brother
What begins as a welcome challenge eventually grows tiring as the sheer ease of discovering wasted food – particularly from supermarket dumpsters – produces more bounty than the couple can consume. The realization leaves the couple deflated, as they begin to come to terms with the scope of the food waste issue on another level.
"The race is not even to find food," says Baldwin at one juncture. "It’s to not waste it again."
Throughout the film, the action pans back and forth between Baldwin and Rustemeyer’s adventure to the stories of food experts, industry professionals, farmers and activists, each of whom have tidbits of wisdom to share about how consumers can contribute to reducing the waste.
Meanwhile, discussions ensue over topics like consumers’ obsession with "perfect" looking food as well as a lack of knowledge regarding the real meanings behind labels like "best by," "use by" and "expiration" dates, a factor which contributes directly to the food waste issue.
Maybe the most notable aspect of the film is that it demonstrates, rather than preaches, and it creates awareness in an entertaining fashion. Baldwin and Rustemeyer are likeable and funny; their personalities and reactions are relatable, and their often amusing adventures are simultaneously engaging and insightful. The film’s footage is artistic and beautifully filmed, using time-lapse to illustrate points related to food production and deterioration and making use of cinematic flair not usually found outside of nature documentaries. Even the soundtrack – which is unexpectedly upbeat – draws in the audience with its well-timed contemporary selections.
The fact that virtually one-third of the world’s food supply is unnecessarily going to waste is a fact that will strike audiences as both shocking and upsetting. However, "Just Eat It" doesn’t leave viewers trapped in the mire. Instead it uses practical examples to demonstrate in a highly entertaining way how average consumers can enact small lifestyle changes which, ultimately, have the potential to make a huge difference in the world of waste.
Just Eat It will be featured twice more during the Milwaukee Film Festival: Sept. 29 at 10 p.m. at the Avalon Theater in Bay View, and Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Fox Bay Cinema & Grill.
Tickets can be purchased online.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.