Food Chains Film Review by Cole Spivak
Every day, millions of Americans eat food without questioning where it came from. It is important and timely that someone exposes the truth behind it all. Sanjay Rawal’s powerful 2014 documentary, Food Chains, reveals the money-powered mindset of large corporations who force farm labor workers into poverty. Farm labor is one of the most demanding and yet worst paying jobs in the United States. The food industry is an important and necessary market, with billion dollar companies like Walmart and the massive amount of various fast food chains, these companies do nothing to insure that hardworking farm labor families are paid fairly, treated humanely, and are not forced into substandard homeless communities.
Director Rawal delves into understanding this thriving market, one that earns over $4 trillion globally, to dig deeper into the issue and expose those who are morally and financially corrupt. From the outside, this money – driven market is often overlooked because of its perceived success. Rawal shows the audience why this success is tainted. He follows the story of a group of tomato pickers in Florida, who are trying to meet with a Publix Supermarket CEO to raise the price of tomatoes by 1 cent per pound, an increase that would raise wages to double the current rate if passed along to the workers.
This sad story, told through close personal interviews, drives home the reality of how fortunate the films average middle class viewers really are. During the second half of the film, Rawal compares the past to present, which he posits is a form of present day slavery. Most of these workers don’t have proper documentation to live in the United States so have no power to engage in collective bargaining, or to go to authorities even when they are forced to work under extreme conditions, the women sexually harassed, and all work long hours with no overtime. These are conditions no one should ever have to endure. One worker says, “One of the most difficult things, is just to come to the realization of how little you mean to the people that you are working for.”
Overall the film forces the audience to bare witness to the pain that the workers experience, in order to create a sense of empathy for those being exploited.
At times, the director may focus more on uncovering the immorality of larger corporations rather than telling the workers individual stories. Some of the laborers may have lost their voice slightly in the film; however, this does not take away from the powerful message that pervades.
Directed by Sanjay Rawal
Available online and select theaters
Cole Spivak is a Baltimore based writer and director. While attending Johns Hopkins University, Cole developed a fascination in story telling and the arts and wants to share it with the world.