JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Berlin Recycles | Urban Fruit (Directors: Nikki Schuster, Roman Zenz) - April 3, 2014

Berlin Recycles | Urban Fruit

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Two pleas to make our cities more healthy and livable

Most certainly not coincidentally, a Farmers’ Market was in full swing in the parking lot of the Camelot Theater ahead of these screenings. Better still, samplings of some of the home-grown fare from Urban Fruit were on hand for a taste test once the credits went to black.

Berlin Recycles
Nikki Schuster
2012, 6 min.
Three and one-half stars

Music scores well

The best component of Schuster’s self-described “experimental animation” was the highly inventive music (from edgy funk to organ grinder) tracks. The images delighted the crowd but didn’t quite pack the same punch. Thanking Berliners for leaving so much “raw material” around the city drew a hearty laugh from all those who actually paid attention to the credits. JWR

The joy of real home-grown food

Urban Fruit
Roman Zenz
2014, 68 min.
Four and one-half stars

More than food for thought

Somewhat akin to the growing movement for rooftop agriculture in major metropolitan settings such as Montreal, Zenz’s film explores the urban vegetable/fruit jungle that is taking root in LA.

Realizing that a career in computer programming doomed him to a sedentary existence, Rishi gave up a well-paying job. He prefers getting his hands dirty several days a week nurturing the land and his fledgling company, The Growing Home. At first to the distain of his family, he’s starting to harvest a future not only from the “easy-to-grow” bounty planted in his family’s tony digs but more and more by teaching others—in person or via radio; old and young—that they don’t have to live their lives as supermarket slaves.

In South LA, Ron’s T-shirt inscribed mantra—“Plant Some Shit”—is also developing a devoted following. In his lead-by-example approach, the agri-social activist sees every vacant lot or arid parkway as an opportunity to grow food and provide at-risk youth a viable option of “breaking out” that doesn’t require joining the U.S. military.

Jenna and Adam have also built their relationship around “find [good] soil, plant, water, repeat” in their backyard. With more produce than they could ever eat, the excess is sold to Forage, the nearby “eat local” restaurant (eventually the LA Health Department manages to embrace this non-corporate method of getting locally grown food to the table without benefit of artificial colouring or pesticides.).

Taking the logical next step, they also raise chickens, one of which—hilariously: seeing is believing—isn’t averse to laying her eggs in the family home.

This production offers genuine hope that self-sufficiency and working with our own hands might be heartily applauded rather than sneered at by those whose “real work” never touches a shovel, weed or ends the day with dirt under the fingernails.

But with human inertia so ingrained and BIG FOOD so powerful, it’s hard to imagine an agricultural sea change anytime soon.

Sadly, it will take a calamity of epic proportions to force the populace back to the land and then live better than ever before. JWR

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Directors - Nikki Schuster, Roman Zenz
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