The United States is touted as one of the richest countries in the world, as the land of opportunity. In the wake of the government shutdown, more and more people are thinking about how backward the policies and procedures our elected representatives uphold really are. It is during this time that a documentary such as “A Place at the Table” has become more relevant than at first glance.
Directed by Kristi Jacobsen and Laura Silverbush, “A Place at the Table” follows the stories of two families dealing with what the film labels “food insecurity” in the U.S. One family is from a rural town in Colorado and the other from the heart of Northern Philadelphia.
This is inter-cut with interviews of health experts, politicians and a few celebrity guests who are involved in activist projects to combat domestic hunger issues.
The film also investigates the government bureaucracy that has created some of these issues in the first place, juxtaposing speeches from the last four presidents regarding the topic, with the numbers of people starving during that time period.
Stylistically, the film opts for the cinema vérité approach of letting the subjects tell their stories with no narration throughout the film.
While it made parts of the film more poignant, it hinders it when it tries to highlight key facts about the history of how the U.S. government responded to hunger, choosing to convey that information through a few animated segments.
Another thing that made me wary was the inclusion of the celebrity guests and footage from various “events” meant to combat the problem, which is almost counter-intuitive to the message the film is trying to get across.
It will definitely put you in a grim mood as it presents an unfiltered story of hunger and what many people, both within and without the government, have done and are currently doing to alleviate the problem while campaigning for a more concrete solution.
This is definitely a documentary worth checking out if you’re looking for a starting point for your research into the domestic issues of hunger and poverty in the U.S.
However, I must give fair warning that the documentary is a very emotional one.
If you’re looking for an unbiased look at the topic, then such a documentary has yet to be produced.
That doesn’t diminish the importance of the issue or the effectiveness of the documentary in any way, but as one should be aware, it’s not a documentary that has all the answers, as the question is far too complex to address in only 84 minutes.
The Tanner Forum of Social Ethics, along with the Thayne Center and Student Life and Leadership, will be hosting free screenings of the documentary “A Place at the Table” in the Student Event Center starting on Oct. 22 at noon.