This past week I packed my bags for the North Woods of Michigan and Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival. I had to select my tickets in advance so I went into the festival knowing I was seeing several documentaries including The Cove (winner of Sundance Audience Award,) Food Inc. (because so many people in LA are talking about it) and Burma VJ (I met the director at Sundance and absolutely adored him.)
With these films in mind, I packed my books for the accompanying plane ride, Julia Childs Memoir, “My Life in France” and Michael Pollen’s follow-up to the Omnivore’s Dilemma, “In Defense of Food.” I also did some quick research to see what food stuffs were going on in Northern Michigan and was thrilled to find out there is a raging slow food and sustainable growing movement.
By the time I landed at Cherry Airport I was well into life at the Cordon Bleu with Julia. I would have given anything to find moules marinieres and a robust red wine to compliment this journey. But instead having missed the opening night screening due to delayed flights, I walked over to the opening night party, an outdoor fest with at least a dozen food and wine sponsors sampling all their best fare, a blue grass band and about 200 patrons enjoying the warm Michigan night. While I did not see Mr. Moore anywhere, I could definitely feel his hand in putting this all together.
The next morning was my first screening of the fest, The Cove. I knew it was going to be rough as I had read the reviews after Sundance. Two hours later, I was devastated. I can barely recount what I saw happening to dolphins and feel forever indebted to the supreme work the advocates against the abuses these beautiful creatures face. I also don’t know if I can ever eat tuna, at least what I think is tuna. Actually, just make that sushi or anything I don’t know comes from responsible sustainable wild fish farms again. In the past I have kept it in check, knowing about mercury levels and the over fishing of the worlds seas but this film drives it home and you just can’t turn a blind eye.
I was able to regroup, I spent a couple of chapters with Julia in the south of France, went to see “Everlasting Moments” a beautiful yet tragic Swedish film that premiered last year in Toronto, then walked over to dinner passing the outdoor projector they had set up next to the lake to screen Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We sat in The Cooks House garden, a perfect execution of a dream slow food inspired restaurant where the chef/owner who trained under Andre Rochat asked us if we were the table who had ordered the arugula as he picked it from the garden directly in front of us!
Little did I know I would go home that night to begin Michael Pollen’s book, “In Defense of Food” and realize how truly important that meal had been. After breakfast and a couple chapters further along (as a solo traveler around the world, I tend to read at my meals) I loaded my suitcase in the rental car and headed to my final screenings of the festival, Food Inc. and Burma VJ.
Now, since one of my first internships helping to write the online outreach guide for MediathatMatters.org, I have been a true believer in films ability to act as a catalyst for social change. After watching “Food Inc.” I don’t know how anyone could not drastically change almost every food choice they make. Its nothing you haven’t heard whisperings of before, animals pumped with antibiotics and hormones that we intern consume and chickens that can’t walk because they are grown with extra large breasts as that is the meat consumer demand. Somehow, we as a country and the world at large are making some tragic and deadly mistakes.
In a post film daze, I followed the crowd over to the local co-op that had sponsored the film. Amazing that this little town in Northern Michigan has the best co-op I have ever seen (Brooklyn and Santa Monica included) where I found a completely locally and organically grown pesticide free vegetarian sandwich and eavesdropped on conversations around me of people deciding to plant their own gardens, commit to free range, grass fed, hormone free beef and give up soy products.
Michael Moore had done it again. I’ve had the pleasure of clapping twice for more than half an hour for standing ovations at Cannes for the premieres of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko, the audience overwhelmed at the power of the images and stories he had just told. And here I was at the café in Traverse City, MI, figuring out how I was going to plant my garden, go to my farmers market, support restaurants like The Cooks House who are making informed, smart and political choices in the food they serve and give up sushi.
In essence, the third and most important standing ovation for Mr. Moore and his commitment to providing his audiences with such important food for thought.