This is a story about that time I was in a movie, one called “Food Evolution,” a documentary about genetic engineering. I had two lines filmed in our kitchen, with my wife Julie in the background. The film crew spent a day with my family, filming harvest and asking us to prepare lunch in the field for around 40 people, including all of our family, neighbors, the film crew, the sound guys, the tech guys and, in this instance, the guy who ran the drone. They must have taken 20 hours of video that day, and it surely cost thousands of dollars in travel and wages for the 45 seconds or so I’m on the screen. Our combines make a cameo appearance in a scene of soybeans tumbling into the grain tank. That scene was shot by the real star of the day, the drone hovering over and then swooping in for a close up of the combine with my dad at the wheel.
The crew of “Food Evolution” filmed on our farm about three years ago. We didn’t hear from them again until the New York City premier was announced earlier this year. We immediately started checking flights for my folks. After all, they’d spent an hour or so interviewing my dad and had filmed my mom serving dinner to a cast of thousands. How exciting would it have been to be at a premier in New York City that featured most of my family!? Before buying the tickets, we sent an email to ask if we actually appeared in the final edit of the film. Rather sheepishly, the producer replied that our moment in the spotlight was measured in seconds. We’re better farmers than movie stars.
“Food Evolution” is unlikely to show up at a multiplex near you, as the market for documentaries on seed breeding technologies is considerably less than for the latest Spiderman sequel. Although if I do say so myself, I believe our combine has a certain screen presence, a sort of brooding menace and seething sexuality that steals the show. Well, maybe not. There has been a lot of controversy about the film, with a predictable letter from some college professors from Berkeley, who didn’t like the film, even though they hadn’t seen it. “Food Evolution” has gotten mostly positive reviews most of the major newspapers and websites. Strangely enough, not one review mentioned me, Julie or our combine. My career as a film star seems destined to be short and unnoticed. Guess I won’t be hiring an agent.
In contrast to “Food Inc.,” another film about agriculture that showed in theaters catering to independent films, “Food Evolution” tells the story of genetic engineering by fairly presenting the science in a way that viewers can understand. At the same time, the film is not afraid to show some of the less admirable players in this long-running social drama in an honest but not complimentary way. Viewers should leave the theater with a level of trust in genetic engineering that they didn’t have when the movie began. If you have an interest in some of the arguments that surround this technology and have been searching for an even-handed treatment of the issues, I’d recommend that you find a theater where “Food Evolution” is appearing. Farmers can only hope this movie gets the same attention in the ongoing debates about farming as “Food, Inc.” did.