Upon arrival in Wilmington I was exhausted, but I was eager to meet my host and the incredible force of nature that she suggested I meet: Francine Covelli, of Francine’s Organic Kids. She and I had already connected on the phone and on Facebook, so I was glad to be putting a face with a name.
When we all met up for appetizers before the screening, Francine’s eight-year-old stepdaughter, Azura, immediately sat down and asked me, “Are you famous?” I laughed heartily at the notion that a documentary filmmaker like me could be famous, but the whole question led to a very interesting conversation about the distinctions between narrative fiction films, both independent and blockbuster, and documentaries, which typically reach a smaller audience, but serve an important role in our cultural landscape.
The screening and Q&A at Theater N sparked an interesting conversation, in which nearly the whole audience participated. One question was about the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). I talked about the short-sightedness of the biotech companies—how they now engineer the crops to contain “Round-up,” but as weeds are already evolving to be resistant to that pesticide, farmers are forced to use even more toxic chemicals to deal with the “super-weeds.”
I also mentioned the lack of evidence that GMOs actually yield more. I noted the unfortunate circumstance that many farmers in developing countries find themselves in after they borrow money to purchase GMO seeds and the chemicals that must accompany them, how in the meantime they destroy their seed heritage (most cultures save their seeds for generations), and then ultimately find out that the yields are no better. The farmers then face a mountain of debt and the integrity of their seed stock may be permanently jeopardized. Biotech companies have also been known to threaten and take action against farmers who have patented genetic material on their land, even though the farmer did not buy them or intend for it to be there
I explained that because there are no requirements to label GMO foods, we are all likely eating them unwittingly; and if we want to avoid eating them, the only way to do so right now is to eat organic food, since it prohibits the use of GMOs.
But there is a significant grassroots effort to label GMOs—complete with a Right to Know march from NYC to Washington, a viral “Just Label It” marketing campaign (click here to sign petition), and a class-action lawsuit questioning the legitimacy of the patent. There is hope, but it’s an uphill battle.
The day after the screening, I headed to Francine’s little farm and learned that Francine’s Organic Kids was part Covelli’s heart & soul—a local initiative partnering with schools to provide hot, healthy, organic lunches, delivered daily. She combined educational workshops for children, families, & educators with the food business.
While eating fresh eggs from her hens and delicious homegrown tomatoes, we found that we have much in common—even including the brief hiatus we each recently had to take in order to care for ailing parents. She hopes to reinvigorate the business, but for now Francine is focused on Farm Table dinners, bringing the community together and out to farms. We even brainstormed about a weeklong series of dinners and films that we could do!
The funniest twist of irony of the tour came from this visit to Wilmington, though. Upon returning home and rifling through emails, I came across one from an audience member whose wife had bought a DVD at the screening there. His email was full of interesting conversation and very kind compliments, but also a simple request—would I mind if he mailed me the DVD cover to autograph and mail back for his wife? I thought autographs were strictly under the purview of the famous!
Of course, I happily said I would accommodate… Even if fame and glory are not fate of most documentarians, I’d much prefer authentic veneration that comes from genuine connections.
Post by OSIP Touring Filmmaker, Shelley Rogers
Photos by MAAF Staff