This feature is bit longer than usual, but it’s worth the extension in order to give the topic the justice it deserves. Recently, we have become more conscious about the ingredients found in the foods that we eat. Yet, we find ourselves in a confused state, doing our best to understand the label on an item. We are curious to know how it was produced and where it came from. And so, awareness about the topic has grown over the past few years, as documentaries about the trillion dollar industry have informed us of the antibiotics, GMOs, and other harmful substances that are being fed to farm animals. However, the topic has only been in an informative state, rather than offering a solution and educating the general public about it. Fortunately, that’s about to change.
Anthony Suau (a Pulitzer Prize recipient and Emmy award winner, along with two World Press Photos of the year awards) is using his experience, expertise, vision, and the effort to educate the rest of us about the world of organic farming. He’s upcoming documentary, Organic Rising, takes a different angle, as its focus is to what the organic standards are and how farmers must uphold them.
With thirty years of experience as a worldwide photographer, with publications in TIME Magazine, National Geographic, and the New York Times, Suau’s career has been more focused towards “bringing important social issues to the people around the world.” So, when I had the opportunity to speak with him, I was intrigued to learn about what had triggered his interests in doing a film about this topic. He mentioned that after living in Europe for 20 years, when he came back to the States he wasn't able to eat the meat found here, as it was not the same quality compared to the meat he had grown up with before leaving the country. This inspired him to research the industry and learn more about the issue.
Suau expressed that he’s baffled by the concept that 1 in 5 American deaths a year can be associated to obesity. That “poisonous systemic pesticides can be found in many GMO food products that are as much as 70% of the food on our supermarket shelves...and that 80% of the antibiotics in the United States today are fed to our factory farm animals to make them grow faster and survive the crowded and unsanitary conditions they live in.”
For his film, he has so far interviewed over 25 farm owners and individuals that work in the industry, expressing that organic farmers are taking a stand on the matter, looking to make a change. He notes that a (good) growing problem that farmers are currently facing is that demand for organic foods are beyond what they can supply. They are ecstatic about the impact that they are making in their local communities as the market explodes with the need for more verified organic items under the strict guidelines set by the USDA.
During our conversation, I asked Anthony on what he foresees as an outcome in the future in order to avoid a replication of the current industry as small farms grow into bigger ones over time, creating a less regulated system. He noted that the best route moving forward is that instead of having larger farms, it may be more efficient to have a higher number of small farms, with each contributing to their own local community. This allows farmers to continue doing their work of making a difference and following the directions of the USDA.
What originally started out as curiosity led Anthony Suau towards developing a short film. However, after sitting down and listening to the stories of the farmers, he realized that a full length film would deliver a stronger message. And that’s what Anthony is hoping for as he directs this documentary. He’s using his experience, knowledge, and credentials to provide a solution to a broken system. And as we become more aware of what’s entering our bodies, Organic Rising will be a fantastic tool to learn about how we can improve upon what we purchase and from whom.
Potentially, Organic Rising will provide the push needed to raise not only awareness, but a solution to the problem. With the film more than likely hitting film festivals throughout the year, it wouldn't come as a surprise if it also landed in other outlets as well, such as Netflix.
And when it comes to directing more films in the future, Anthony stated that he’d love to if the opportunity was right.
Overall, being informed and aware about an important issue POPs.