Dive deep into the global food scene with this list of compelling films and docuseries. These 18 documentaries unpack everything from the struggles of small-scale farmers to the incredible work of activists advocating for a more sustainable food future. Whether you’re a critic of the food industry, a keen home cook, or simply fascinated by the ties between food, personal identity, and social structures, this list promises to satisfy every curiosity.
1. A New Day
A New Day is a portrayal of the realities small-scale farmers face in the Global South. Through this film, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) advocates for increased investment in rural communities who are under constant threat from the climate crisis. Shot in Tunisia and directed by award-winning filmmaker Jonathan Pearson, the film vividly demonstrates the potential of transforming the food system through these farmers. Watch it on YouTube.
2. Common Ground (forthcoming 2023)
The sequel to Kiss the Ground, this film highlights the U.S. food system, detailing the human costs of policies that favor profit-driven agriculture. Common Ground criticizes the widespread use of agrochemicals in agriculture and highlights the issues plaguing the farming community, such as high suicide rates and the lobbying power of agricultural businesses. Featuring experts like Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta, and Rick Clark, the film serves as a call to action against the status quo.
3. Cornwall Climate Stories: Food for Thought
Narrated by organic beef farmer Lisa Guy, Food for Thought examines the question of whether eaters should give up meat and dairy to combat the climate crisis. The film is set in Cornwall, England, where farming livestock is integral to the region’s agriculture. It showcases promising Cornish initiatives that aim to mitigate the negative environmental effects of animal farming. Watch it on YouTube.
4. Deep Rising
In Deep Rising, director Matthieu Rytz presents a tale of corporate, scientific, and geopolitical intrigue around the extraction of deep-sea metals for the electric battery revolution. Narrated by Jason Momoa, the documentary follows the journey of a startup who want to mine in the Pacific Ocean floor while marine geologists warn of consequences for ocean biodiversity and the communities that depend on it. The film questions humanity’s pattern of destructive extraction for profit, and challenges the viewer to question: who owns the uncharted sea?
5. Feeding Tomorrow (forthcoming)
Feeding Tomorrow illuminates the transformative power of food, brought to life through the inspiring stories of innovative leaders in agriculture, healthcare, and education. The film follows trailblazers who are combating the challenges of a broken food system and creating tangible, actionable solutions for a more regenerative future. Feeding Tomorrow offers a hopeful vision of a global system that is more equitable, sustainable, and focused on the wellbeing of our planet and its inhabitants.
6. Follow the Food
This comprehensive multimedia series investigates the challenges of global food systems. BBC explores the problems of soil loss, malnutrition, and the climate crisis, as well as innovative solutions evolving in the realms of farming and technology Watch and delve into the related articles here.
7. Food 2050 (forthcoming)
Produced in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation and Media RED, Food 2050 captures the crucial efforts of a group of visionaries. The film is a continuation of the “Food 2050” mini-series, featuring 10 leaders working to improve global food and agriculture systems from the ground up. Amidst the collapse of profit-driven food systems and the accelerating climate crisis, these activists, farmers, doctors, and scientists are all working towards a sustainable and equitable food future. Their extraordinary endeavors offer hope and actionable solutions for transformation.
8. Food, Inc. 2 (forthcoming 2023)
Food, Inc. 2, the sequel to the Academy Award-nominated documentary Food, Inc., continues the original film’s exploration of the food industry’s and devastating impacts. The original film’s producers and narrators, Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan, return, joining directors Robert Kenner and Melisa Robledo for an expose into how our current food system isn’t good for people or the planet. Viewers can also check out companion book, featuring original essays from innovators and advocates, which encourages readers to take a more proactive role in the food system they participate in.
9. Food and Country
Renowned food writer Ruth Reichl and filmmaker Laura Gabbert join forces in this film that delves into the struggles of small farmers, ranchers, and chefs. These food producers are facing multiple challenges, but are innovating and surviving against the odds. As Reichl travels the United States, moving from fine dining rooms to rural farmlands, she unveils a series of riveting narratives. Through her eyes, Food and Country reveals not only the humanity behind our food system, but also the urgent need to reassess the nation’s values around food production.
10. Hope In the Water (forthcoming 2024)
Hope In the Water explores innovative approaches to restore the world’s oceans while responsibly producing food. Guided by the engaging narratives of a food travelogue and investigative journalism, the docuseries connects viewers to first-person stories from those most impacted by our stressed marine resources. Amid themes of sustainability, biodiversity, conservation, equity, and innovation, the series offers a hopeful perspective on restoring our oceans and ensuring food security.
11. La Cosecha
This short film features Nolvia Castillo, an immigrant from Chiriqui, Guatemala, as she embarks on a transformative journey in Austin, Texas. La Cosecha showcases her growth into becoming a key part of her community’s food distribution network. As filmmaker Ai Vuong captures Nolvia’s story, she also explores the profound role food plays in the shared immigrant experience. The film offers a heartfelt narrative about how one’s independence can bloom amidst the rich tapestry of community, culture, and sustenance. And it shows how food can act as a bridge between cherished pasts and envisioned futures.
12. Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food
Poisoned exposes the alarming realities of foodborne illnesses in the U.S., taking viewers from the infamous Jack In the Box E.coli outbreak in 1992 to today’s escalating concerns about the safety of food. Director Stephanie Soechtig digs into the labyrinth of food regulations, revealing the lack of effective enforcement and questioning the claims that the U.S. food supply is the safest in the world. Through harrowing stories of families affected by foodborne illnesses and tips for grocery shopping, this documentary compels viewers to reevaluate what’s on their plate and how it arrived there. Watch it on Netflix.
13. Reinventing Farming and Food Post-Globalisation
Reinventing Farming and Food Post-Globalisation is a compelling documentary based on the book, Homecoming: The Path to Prosperity in a Post-Global World by Financial Times’ global business columnist, Rana Foroohar. The film examines how neoliberal economics have disrupted food supply chains and forced small farmers out of business. Through conversations with farmers and food systems experts, Foroohar highlights the urgent need for localized economies, regulatory safeguards, and the creation of stronger, more sustainable industries. Watch it on Financial Times or YouTube.
14. Rich Appetites
Discover the impact of industrial agriculture on biodiversity, hunger, and small-scale farmers in Africa in this five-part short film series. Rich Appetites examines how billionaire philanthropic promote chemical-intensive agriculture model globally. Created by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Watch and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, this series challenges the dominance of corporate control over agriculture and explores sustainable alternatives. Watch and explore the companion guides here.
15. The Future of Food (forthcoming December 2023)
This documentary series by the World Farmers’ Organization addresses the critical role of farming in the face of global crises like climate change, food costs, and government inaction. Highlighting the challenges faced by the farming sector globally, The Future of Food showcases innovative local solutions and the resilient farmers implementing them, emphasizing the shift towards more sustainable, climate-resilient farming practices. Set to launch at COP28, the series aims to bridge the gap between farmers and the public, shedding light on the essential role farming plays in combating global challenges and shaping a sustainable future.
16. The Kitchenistas
This inspiring film showcases the transformation of National City, California, from a region struggling with obesity and diabetes to a vibrant community advocating for healthy food traditions. The story follows the Kitchenistas, who are graduates from the Cooking for Salud bilingual culinary program. These Latina women then become community leaders in teaching healthy eating and high-quality food practices. The film traces the personal journeys of several early-generation Kitchenistas, highlighting the power of education, human connection, and cultural understanding in creating lasting health changes. Watch it on multiple streaming platforms.
17. We Feed People
We Feed People illuminates the awe-inspiring journey of renowned chef José Andrés and his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen (WCK), from humble beginnings to a globally recognized disaster relief organization. Providing not just a meal, but “a plate of hope,” WCK’s work intersects food policy transformation, climate justice, and community building. The film traces WCK’s evolution, underscores the importance of human dignity in aid work, and showcases their notable responses to crises, from earthquakes in Haiti to the war in Ukraine and local tragedies in the U.S. Watch it on Disney+.
18. Wild Hope
An eight-part series, Wild Hope highlights the eco-changemakers who are coming together to restore the planet and protect local ecology. Episode 2, “The Big Oyster,” for example, documents the work of the Billion Oyster Project and Living Breakwaters to restore the waters of New York Harbor, once home to some of the world’s most extensive oyster reefs. And in Episode 7, “Coffee for Water,” the series turns its attention to the scientists, development experts, and local farmers working together to save Mount Gorongosa’s rainforest in Mozambique. Find all eight episodes here.
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Photo Courtesy of Guillaume Henrotte