Did you know that the Earth is running out of food? If you are a diligent scholar of UN World Health Organization reports, or ever watched “Soylent Green”
(1973) late at night while scarfing down Doritos, you know that the human population of the planet is increasing faster than the world food supply. Clearly we need a new food source if we are to survive.
“BUGS” explores the use of insects as a tasty solution to our problems. Two chefs – Josh and Ben – travel the world trying out different revolting multi-legged critters, and bring them back to the Nordic Food Lab where they attempt to turn the various larvae, hornets, ants, and flies, into haute cuisine.
With a plot like this, the movie could easily have turned into an extended Vice video: “Look at me in Phnom Penh, eating grasshoppers while listening to Cambodian speed metal!” but these guys are more thoughtful than that. They treat the bug-eating cultures of the world with respect, and are there to learn, not to shock.
Unfortunately Chef Ben soon becomes as irritating as a tick bite. Big companies like Nestle are also interested in the possibilities of insect food. You would think someone trying to turn edible insects into a thing would be happy, but Ben is too hipster for that. He’s moved beyond just eating insects, man, and starts clamoring for free-range, cruelty free, fair-trade edible insects. Dude can’t eat a fried queen termite without taking a swipe at the corporate West and the morons who are still eating burgers made from actual meat. Luckily he disappears from the movie midway through (and the viewer can only imagine the epic flounce as Ben denounces the sell-outs in thrall to Big Insect and stomps out of the room). This leaves the other chefs in peace as they travel to Japan to eat some, uhhh, BOILED GIANT HORNETS, blurrrrgghh.
Eat the wrong insect, like the Brazilian Wandering Spider, and you could end up on the NY Times obituary page, the subject of a new documentary. Despite it’s dry and slightly morbid topic, “Obit” is turning out to be the surprise hit of the festival. Directed in a straightforward manner by Vanessa Gould, Obit makes stars out of the least likely people – mostly old men who work in cubicles and stare at computer screens all day. The viewer watches the process from start to finish, as the writers craft obituaries about the recently departed. Bruce Weber (not the photographer) struggles with the obit for William P. Wilson, JFK’s TV advisor. Elsewhere, Margalit Fox recounts her obituary of adventurer John Fairfax, sometimes called “the most bad-ass obit ever.” All the characters in the film seem like likable versions of your favorite uncle or aunt from Brooklyn. I rate the movie 12/10, would definitely like to have my obituary written by these people (but not soon).
Coming up next… guns, girls, gold… on the next TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL DISPATCH.