Published May 04, 2012As the title suggests, the Finnish globalization documentary, Canned Dreams, about the many ingredients that go into a standard can of ravioli, imposes an ideology of despondency and desperation in relation to the food processing industry. It spans Europe and South America, featuring first-person confessionals from workers involved in various stages of mass production, from livestock to fruit to metals.
And since the theme is that of an environmentalist, organic nature, these sob stories from around the world breed an indirect contempt for convenience foods and the very nature of a global economy, noting, but never verbalizing, the corporate greed angle from which the working people are exploited and robbed of their dreams.
Initially, this journey intrigues on an informative level, showing how metal is mined in Brazil and how tomatoes are harvested in Portugal, moving to Denmark and Poland for the handling of livestock. Each country features a worker with a depressing story, save Italy and France, where protracted shots of workers staring solemnly at the camera substitute for the theme of global defeat.
A cattle slaughterer complains of a cheating wife and a Romanian pig slaughterer talks about her financially irresponsible ex-boyfriend that beat her in the street for not handing over her abortion money for him to gamble away. It's all quite heavy-handed and saddled with some very vivid imagery of animal butchery, making the viewing experience something of a chore for anyone with a weak stomach.
However, director Katja Gauriloff injects a lyrical tone to her film, making each sequence flow by with aesthetic consistency and sombre beauty, which makes the quietly preachy tone somewhat more palatable.
Clearly those already on her political bandwagon will have a greater appreciation for the subject matter, finding meaning in the simultaneously harsh and wondrous imagery, while everyone else might just feel patronized by the coy manipulation tactics and calculated mood.
Sure, some of the workers discuss getting a sense of purpose from their jobs, but this is often overshadowed by tales of material insult and insecurities that are exacerbated by overt signage like, "Work to live; don't live to work." (Oktober Oy)