The IDFA 2005 documentary festival showed two Austrian films that were closely related. Unser Täglich Brot (winner of special jury prize) followed the production processes of a number of food products without comment. In We Feed the World by Erwin Wagenhofer, we not only see images of these processes, but we also hear comments from experts and stakeholders. The result is a mind-boggling movie.
The most shocking are of course the images. The millions of tomatoes in southern Spain and the vast areas in Brazil, where the tropical rainforest has had to make way for soy fields. This soy is not used for human consumption but for that of poultry. Finally, we also see the agony of an egg that was unlucky enough to become a chick. Thousands at a time, the chicks are crunched into boxes on conveyor belts, driven to sheds and after eight weeks they are sent back to the slaughter factory.
But not only are the images staggering, the words are too. We hear that the slaughterhouse is killing the staggering 50,000 chicks per day. We learn that the fresh surplus bread thrown away daily in Vienna is enough to feed a medium-sized city and that European subsidized fruit is thriving in the African market. But the most terrifying words come from Nestlé’s supreme boss. According to him it is not written anywhere that every person has the right to water. That is why water should be seen as an ordinary market commodity and it should therefore come with a price tag.
Following such statements by a stream of images of massive food production gives this film an almost prophetic feel. We Feed the World is no longer even an indictment of the food industry, but rather seems to herald the fall of economic liberalism. And whether that is an optimistic or pessimistic view is up to each viewer to decide.