Appetite for change

This post is about one of the ten short films in the Open University/BBC Creative Climate short film competition, made by students from UK film schools. You can see them all here on the OU’s YouTube channel.

Food for Thought by Gervais Merryweather, National Film and Television School

All of the complex threads of the relationships between food, trade and environment are told through an animation of the life of an apple. The animation seeks to encourage viewers to be more mindful as they shop. Gervais Merryweather explains how he arrived at his simple and striking approach here:

The idea for this film came about when I thought of the earth as an apple and of showing humankind’s effects on it as a kind of mould. As Earth is a living thing, I thought it a pretty cool idea to use another living thing to portray it.

The challenge with using something organic is that its effects would be unpredictable, though a truly strong visual. The route I took was food and in the film, it describes the journey of a standard work lunch. The main problem with consumption is that people are simply unaware of where things come from and where things go after they eat and so by combining some striking visuals and telling them a few facts, there is a chance people will take notice.

This, as well as the visuals, tries to make people aware and to just think about the decisions they make with something as simple as food. They will then, hopefully, be able to apply this logic to many other things they do day to day.

The piece reminds me of an essay by the novelist Ian McEwan about humanity and climate change:

‘(t)he sheer pressure of our numbers, the abundance of our inventions, the blind forces of our desires and needs, appear unstoppable and are generating a heat – the hot breath of our civilisation – whose effects we comprehend only hazily…. How can we ever begin to restrain ourselves? We appear, at this distance, like a successful lichen, a ravaging bloom of algae, a mould enveloping a fruit.’

One answer to McEwan’s question is that talented, creative people can throw themselves into the task of making the consequences of everyday decisions tangible. Gervais brought together strands of the ‘economy’, ‘ecology’ and ‘design’ briefs in his animation. Researchers are increasingly revealing the hidden social and environmental harm in everyday things, and designers are increasingly pointing to ways in which this harm can be dramatically reduced but their work is still at the margins. What can be done to bring these kinds of thinking further into the mainstream? This piece focuses our attention on a familiar object and draws us into a concisely told story about impacts and choices. But Gervais is presenting his viewers with more than factual content: the words and images aim to reach people at an emotional level. Attending to both head and heart seems vital to the search for ways for society to be more careful in its daily routines.

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