Food Collaborative Supports Virginia Film Festival Screenings: Queen of the Sun, Sweet Grass

By Lynda Fanning

Mark your calendars for the upcoming Virginia Film Festival, especially the two films promoted by the Food Collaborative: Queen of the Sun Sunday Nov. 7 at 11:30, Newcomb Hall, introduced by Ben Cohen: Sweet Grass the same day at 3:15, Regal 3 Downtown, introduced by Marga Odahowski.

While these films don't directly depict elements of the Food System, like soil health or plant diversity, they do transport us supermarket-food-in-cellophane-package-based viewers to an up close experience with Nature as well as how, when, and if she "cooperates" with humans to keep feeding cycles going. Get ready to unleash a whole lot of respect and awe for how Nature works - and for its breath-taking beauty and wisdom, but also the potential tragedy when humans try to coerce it on their terms.

Queen of the Sun (Taggert Seigal, Director also of The Dirt on Farmer John, will open your ears (and hearts) to the unmistakable messages, like Colony Collapse Disorder, that 21st Century bees are sending us-after having been a team with humans for, so far, about 10,000 years.

What's at stake if this team fails is our food (40% of our food needs to be pollinated) as well as plants and forests. Discovering Albert Einstein's statement "If bees disappear, we'll have 4 years to live on this planet" is what instigated Seigel to take on this several years' project. Meet beekeepers from other countries, as this problem is global. Look for the French one leaning onto the bee-covered trays to "tickle" the bees with his bushy moustache, virtually glowing in the deep mutual connection with them, described in his English as: "the beekeepers they are choosed by the bees." "I am fall in love with this Queen." Look for the dancer with 12,000 bees on her body.

The answer to the question-what are the bees telling us- will not likely be to truck hives all over the country to giant monoculture farms to pollinate at our beck and call, though even these "commercial" beekeepers may connect with the bee mystery as well. Without a silver bullet solution, and with the jury still way out, an answer may simply be: do agriculture differently (without the force of pesticides, GMOs, monoculture farms, etc.), working our way back to balance with nature. There are solutions, and this crisis may be a catalyst for change. One reviewer:" Seigal makes us dream of making a difference." Enter the UVa Food Collaborative.

Sweet Grass was "recorded" by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and produced by Ilisa Barbash (she will be here for post-film discussion), and as well, both have day jobs at Harvard in Ethnography and Anthropology respectively. Brace yourself for beauty like you've never seen, but tempered with nature’s intrusions. Though mostly filmed in 2001 this duo took eight years (!) to complete this shockingly beautiful examination of the connection between man (two singing, cursing cowboy/shepherds) and beast (3000 noisy sheep, the dogs, and occasional wild animal intruders) over the 150 mile trek up the Absaroka Beartooth Montana mountains to reach summer pasture. After 100 years, this trip done via federal grazing permit was the last. Described as "paradise," the area is near the location of A River Runs Through It. Per critics and bloggers, the film is "hilariously weird," "both epic-scale and earth-bound," "monumental- an anthropological work of art." It is recorded refreshingly sans music soundtrack or Morgan Freeman-style voiceover; instead, you experience the raw, pure sounds, sights and experiences of connectedness among the team of hard-working man and beast. "To get a dog to come to you, they have to know you and like you. How come dogs like you and people don't?" Prepare to assume a back seat to nature, to the clearness of animal perspectives and to go along for the exquisite ride as if we're part of a "conceptual art installation, in constant motion, sound and all" (blogger).

Finally, we'll have a discussion by John Whiteside, one of our preeminent local grass-fed beef producers who, like nearby Joel Salatin, is a master of the science and art of pasturing, a bit of a transition from this trek for high mountain pasture, and also not so challenging at his Wolf Creek Farm near Madison, Va.

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