J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tribeca ’16: Bugs

Remember when William Holden told Ricky Schroder bugs are a great source of protein in The Earthling? What takes them five seconds requires seventy-four minutes in this documentary. Insects are still loaded with protein and seems a good many of them taste like roasted garlic in Andreas Johnsen’s Bugs (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Chef Ben Reade and his research associate Josh Evans at the Nordic Food Lab are the cats to talk to if you are interested in eating bugs. They scour the globe for tasty creepy-crawlers and larva, bringing the prime cuts back to Denmark. For them, it is a messianic mission to find and develop low cost sources of high-protein food-stuffs.

There are two problems with Bugs: it starts with a faulty premise and it repeats the flawed line of reasoning over five beat-for-beat repetitive sequences. Reade and Evans argue bug-based food will be necessary to prevent wide-spread starvation in the future, but their neo-retro-Malthusian analysis fails to acknowledge there is no shortage of land that could be brought into cultivation relatively easily. The hard truth is most famines that occurred over the last century were not due to crop shortfalls, per se, but were the result of government policies designed to punitively collectivize agriculture or to deliberately keep food away from people, for reasons of social control and/or ethnic cleansing. Bugs are not going to help in those situations.

Johnsen’s presentation does not help their case much either. Basically, we watch Reade and Evan travel to an exotic land, where they listen to a lecture from a local expert about westerners’ destructive taste for junk food, before heading out into the wild to rustle up some insectoid grub and grill it up right there in the field.

That is pretty much all Johnsen, Reade, and Evans bring to the big-screen. Unfortunately, there is scant little value-added in terms of visual style or humor, but at least Spacelab (Nikolaj Hess, Mikkel Hess, and Anders A.C. Christensen) gives us something cool to listen to with their up-tempo, jam-band-ish jazz soundtrack. The film sounds great, but it never really gets anywhere. Frankly, this should be a fifteen-minute documentary short, at the most. Not recommended, Bugs screens again this afternoon (4/21) at the more accessible Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas, as part of the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.

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