“Food is a sacrament, Food is what binds us together, it’s sacred” – Gary Paul Nabhan, Food Activist & Conservationist
Man in the Maze is a compelling new documentary which aims to shift perceptions around extreme hunger and poverty and create a global conversation about these endemic issues, which are impacting the lives of billions. The short film, produced by film-makers, Phil Buccellato and Jesse Ash and made in partnership with Food Tank and Greener Media has already won the Sundance Short Film Challenge and was also underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The film focuses on food activist and conservationist Gary Paul Nabhan, who takes us on a food waste journey to Southern Arizona – a region that is scandalously blighted with galling economic disparity and a dysfunctional food system. South Arizona is home to the largest inland port of entry for food in the world, where thousands of colossal trucks containing food produce pulse through this ‘big food super highway’ on a daily basis, from the west coast of Mexico. While food transportation occurs on such an industrially mammoth level, so does levels of food waste.
“25 to 30 percent of all the produce that we eat year round comes from the border towns,” affirms Nabhan. “With that is a tremendous amount of food waste, because if the Florida tomato prices drop on a certain day, 120,000 pounds might be thrown into a landfill just because of the pricing.”
Aerial shots of the Rio Rico landfill visually articulate this staggering statistic, where giant piles of perfectly edible produce are dumped and disregarded, crushed and forgotten, while at the same time, 1 in 5 people in Arizona are food insecure and living in poverty.
As damning as this situation is, individuals and communities are coming together to develop solutions to rebuild the food system from the bottom-up, in a participatory way, from Borderland food bank, which rescues between 30 and 40 million pounds of produce per produce season and redistributes them to the marginalised and disadvantaged in the area, to Native Seeds/SEARCH – a grassroots movement which is growing to preserve the agricultural legacy of Southern Arizona, by conserving seeds.
Co-founded by Nabhan, Native Seeds/SEARCH was set up to challenge the looming uncertainty of climate change – a stark ecological problem which is growing exponentially in Southern Arizona. By amassing and storing seeds in their seed bank, Native Seeds can conserve and protect the diversity of the area and supply seeds to farmers who can then enhance local food systems.
The film also reveals the sustainable imagination of inspiring people who live in the region, from Christina Natalini, a mother who is teaching her young daughter to grow her own food, and Arturo Lopez, who maintains a community garden.
Film-makers Phil Buccellato and Jesse Ash contemplate the progressive impact which they hope their documentary will achieve; “This is an important story that impacts billions around the world — how do we sustainably feed a growing population”. Buccellato continues; “The documentary has great power to change the conversation about the issues. If we can be a catalyst for someone to make a donation, or get involved in some level, that would be greatly satisfying.”
Man In The Maze is being exclusively streamed here