For those who haven’t yet had their fill of documentaries about how we all need to stop eating garbage, here’s Jean-Paul Jaud’s Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution, a film about how chemicals are seeping into our diets and giving us cancer. The movie’s title is odd—it’s almost like Jaud is warning food to watch its delicious ass—but that may be because it’s at least the third naming iteration. Food Beware used to carry the vaguer English title That Should Not Be; in French, it was Nos Enfants Nous Accuseront, which roughly translates as “our children are going to be pissed at us.” Put all three titles together, and that comes closest to explaining what Jaud’s film is really about.
Food Beware is divided between three main components. Jaud filmed a series of Unesco panels and town meetings in which scientists and doctors presented data on the pesticides, nitrates, mercury, and lead that have become a permanent part of any factory-produced foodstuff, and that are working on us as a kind of carcinogenic cocktail. To that, Jaud adds interviews with crop-dusters and farmers, who acknowledge that if they have to wear protective gear around the food they produce, then maybe that food isn’t fit for human consumption. And the core of Food Beware consists of a study of a small French village committed to exposing its schoolchildren to the virtues of organic food, even if it means teaching them catchy songs about the greedy corporations dumping filth into their environment.
Food Beware is handsomely shot, and bolstered by a lush score by top-drawer composer Gabriel Yared. Jaud succeeds at making organic food look gorgeous, and at making a rural, natural existence look idyllic. But structuring Food Beware as a straight-up advocacy doc—heavy on facts, figures, and tongue-clucking—may have been a mistake. There’s inherent drama in the story of the small town and its efforts to sustain a healthy lifestyle. (Who backslides? How much does this experiment cost?) But Jaud seems more interested in showing how deliriously happy the organic converts are, especially by contrast to those who’ve lost loved ones to cancer. Jaud isn’t telling a story so much as he’s making a case, and while his case is persuasive, it doesn’t really work as a movie. The information in Food Beware could fit just as easily—and just as effectively—into a pamphlet.