Published Apr 04, 2013An estimated 49 million Americans suffer from food insecurity, unsure where their next meal will come from, a point drilled into viewers of Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush's A Place at the Table. The facts presented in this documentary are punitive: one in six Americans don't get enough to eat on a regular basis and what they can afford is usually crap. This is largely because the existing U.S. farm policy is in favour of the agribusiness conglomerates that produce grains for processed food and misses the mark for the growers of fruits and vegetables.
This thesis is then projected onto three documentary subjects acting as ciphers for political change. Rosie (a sweet fifth-grader from Colorado) lives in squalor with her family, which never has enough money to afford the bare essentials. This is similarly the situation of Barbie, an unemployed mother of two from Philadelphia that struggles to feed her children. And since obesity is a trend topic, there's Tremonica, an enormous second-grader from Mississippi whose diet has directly contributed to her ongoing health problems.
Jacobson and Silverbush present these seemingly futile stories in a slick package, intercutting the real-life stories with fancy animations, interviews with policy experts (lobbyists) and celebrities such as Jeff Bridges and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio, who, incidentally, have their charitable foundations to tie into the overall theme of the documentary. Jeff Bridges even goes so far as to equate the food insecurity problem to an issue of patriotism: "how can Americans let their brethren go hungry?"
The film's aim is to point out errors being made by the government, but one has to wonder why a mother struggling to feed her children has the latest blackberry mobile device and how she can afford to dye her hair routinely throughout the filming of this documentary. The directors focus on how poverty forces individuals to purchase the cheapest foods with the lowest nutritional count, but the overriding bias and forced perspective leave the overwhelming impression that not all angles are being presented.
Driving this home is the social action campaign coupled with the film, which displays a text message number before the end titles asking viewers to contact them for further information on the matter. It's a cheap tactic that will surely enlist supporters for an issue that is plaguing American citizens. If only it wasn't so transparent, A Place at the Table might have been compelling rather than patronizing. (Kinosmith)