Coming to theatres today, Friday, July 8: AT THE FORK
John Papola’s exploration of large-scale farming and food choices makes its debut theatrically via Tugg this month.
Perhaps hoping to distinguish his film from numerous others focused on similar concerns, Papola, a meat-eater married to Lisa, a vegetarian, uses their story as a starting point to look into the conundrums faced by both farmers and consumers seeking quality yet inexpensive food while still treating animals humanely. Papola and his wife pop up throughout the film, but this personal aspect to the story is not particularly developed nor does it ultimately have a satisfying narrative pay-off, making it feel like an ultimately unnecessary, somewhat half-formed, storytelling crutch. Leaving this aside, what remains is a sometimes effective survey of several farms using a variety of methods to raise chickens, cows, and pigs for the market, with forthright farmers noting the dilemmas they must face to balance productivity with animal welfare. Working in concert with these producers, Papola is granted notable access to their farms, resulting in a project that eschews the kind of undercover surveillance that has uncovered disturbing abuses within the industrial farming system in past nonfiction on the subject. While the filmmaker doesn’t stop eating meat, he does provide a call to action in the film’s credits to suggest helpful steps that consumers can take towards a better, more humane way of approaching food choices, including options that can remain palatable to other omnivores who are also unlikely to radically change their diets.