The Fruit Hunters makes a juicy case against monoculture
A documentary by Yung Chang. In English, Spanish, Italian, and Penan with English subtitles. Unrated. Opens Saturday, December 8, at the Vancity Theatre
Less a call to arms than a reason to fill your hands, and mouth, The Fruit Hunters celebrates the amazing diversity of edible sweet stuff growing on trees, bushes, vines, and the ground almost everywhere.
Basing his globetrotting journey on Adam Gollner’s book of the same name, Montreal-based Yung Chang shows a more playful side than anything seen in his award-winning Up the Yangtze (or in his China Heavyweight, which still hasn’t come here). Alarm bells do occasionally sound over the omnivorous monocultures making all our supermarket bananas alike. But this is one fight better served by encouraging us to salivate over all the ripe, colourful mangos, dragon fruit, and rambutan still available for the plucking.
To that end, Chang and his NFB team travel to Florida, where scientists work on preserving dwindling species; Hawaii, now home to thousands of imported plants; Indonesia, in search of rare (and smelly) breeds of durian; and Borneo, where indigenous tribes are disappearing alongside rare, sometimes previously unknown fruits.
Occasionally, fruit is even a part of worship; at a temple ritual in Bali, a graceful lady’s head is piled high with neon-bright delicacies, turning her into a Buddhist Carmen Miranda. The Asian fruit markets seen here alone are enough to make you swear off Safeway. This juicy exoticism—often bordering on the erotic—is balanced by more prosaic visits with actor Bill Pullman as he attempts to pull together a community orchard high in the Hollywood Hills.
The images are sumptuous, and are supported by unusually creative music. The filmmaker also takes the opportunity to stage moments from fruit history, real or imagined, jumping from CGI animation to clever model work and performers in wild costumes. This is one doc you can really sink your teeth into.
A Skype Q&A with director Yung Chang follows the 7:45 screening of The Fruit Hunters, on Sunday (December 9)