A waitress carries a tray of fries, a hot dog, and what appears to be a chicken patty sandwich.

Photograph by Bruce Dale, National Geographic

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  • The Geography of Food in Film
    This outdoor screen was erected for the annual James Dean Festival in Dean's hometown of Marion, Indiana.

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    This group of films explores the geographies of food from many cultural perspectives—from environmental and health issues to fun children’s stories.

     

    Rated G

     

    Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

    1971

    This is the 1971 original, not the remake! Charlie wins a golden ticket to enter a delicious chocolate factory, and the magical world, of mysterious candy maker Willy Wonka. Based on the Roald Dahl book, this movie suspends the harsh geography of Charlie's reality as he enters the geography of imagination. Charlie explores the factory's layout through taste, each room more delicious (and dangerous) than the last. Place, space, and time are suspended in this film, making it a fun geographic adventure of the mind.

    —Samantha Zuhlke, NG project manager

     

    Charlotte's Web

    1973

    A beautifully written, nicely animated, and surprisingly subversive musical, told from the food's point of view. We want to save Wilbur (a sustainably raised runt—Some Pig!) . . . but our sympathies don't quite extend to Charlotte's fly-by-night meals. Best scene: Paul Lynde, maintaining the integrity of Center Square, sings a trenchant analysis of American food habits. He's a rat. Eating garbage. At a shut-down state fair. Awesome.

    —Caryl-Sue, NG writer/editor

     

    Rated PG

     

    Elf

    2003

    An orphaned baby climbs into Santa's sack and travels to the North Pole during the wee hours of December 25. An elf father raises the baby and names him Buddy. When he is grown up, Buddy travels to New York to find his human dad. Buddy has a sweet tooth and puts maple syrup on everything, including pasta. This movie reminded me that everyone eats differently and often what is considered "normal" depends on where you live. For example, in China I ate shrimp-flavored potato chips!

    —Jessica Shea, NG web producer/editor

     

    Food Inc.

    2008

    As a companion piece to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Food Inc. takes a polemical and in-depth look at the corporate controlled industrialized agriculture sector in the United States. Consuming food is arguably the most frequent and important interaction humans have with the environment. This movie touches on sustainability, health, socioeconomic factors, and ecology, and each are rooted among different places and at various scales within the U.S.

    —Evan Gover, NG intern

     

    Age of Innocence

    1993

    This movie has lavish scenes of meals that are authentic to the time and culture. Course after course of brilliantly displayed food show off the types of foods that were available (mainly to the upper classes) and the place that dining had in the social settings of the day. Well-researched and presented use of food.

    —Audrey Kremer, NG evaluations program manager

     

    Rated PG-13

     

    Julie and Julia

    2009

    Movie about Julia Child, and her flair with food. It is a funny and delightful journey through the culinary world.

    —Melissa MacPhee, Geo-Educator

     

    Rated R

     

    Like Water For Chocolate

    1992

    Passion, love, betrayal . . . and food! What more could you want in a movie? Delving into Mexican culture, traditions and mores, the movie follows long-suffering Tita who, as the youngest daughter in her family, is forbidden to marry so she may care for her mother in her old age. Tita, of course, falls in love with Pedro, but her meddling mother orchestrates it so he marries Tita's sister Rosaura instead. Tita's powerful emotions wend their way into the foods she cooks for her family causing longing, lust, anger, and passion in all those who eat it, with disastrous consequences. The family's—and Tita and Pedro's—story spans years, including those of the Mexican Revolution and ends in a literal and figurative blaze of glory.

    —Kim Hulse, NG Education

     

    Party Girl

    1995

    Mary is a party girl with a predilection for putting things in order, so much so that she'll organize a host's closet before she helps herself to what's inside. Arrested for throwing an illegal rent party in New York City, Mary appeals to her godmother, who gives her a job as a clerk at the New York Public Library. Mary loves the job so much she decides to go to library school. It's a cute movie about a woman who wants a career and refuses to settle down, something many of us can relate to. Mary's favorite meal of falafel with extra hot sauce, baba ghanoush and a seltzer will make you hungry for it before the film is over!

    —Mary Schons, librarian

     

    Not Rated

     

    Eat Drink Man Woman

    1994

    Since my parents use to own a restaurant business, I resonated with the story of a Chinese dad, who is a chef, and the lives of his three daughters. The food looks amazing and it shows even though they don't realize it, Sunday dinner is what keeps them connected to each other.

    —Irene Yung, worker

     

    The Garden

    2008

    This film tells the story of a community garden cooperative in South Central Los Angeles and their struggle to maintain the space in which they had been cultivating fruits and vegetables. I often wonder why is there this huge movement to put gardens in low-income neighborhoods when this garden space, which was so successful, was then forced out of the community. This movie touches upon many important issues in the realm of food sovereignty and social justice. A must-see for all of those advocating for and in support of the people who grow our food.

    —Sarah Percle, student

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    cuisine Noun

    a style of cooking.

    diet Noun

    foods eaten by a specific group of people or other organisms.

    Encyclopedic Entry: diet
    documentary Noun

    non-fiction film.

    food Noun

    material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

    Encyclopedic Entry: food
    geographic perspective Noun

    a way to understand a topic or area using spatial features and relationships.

    geography Noun

    study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    Encyclopedic Entry: geography
    sustainability Noun

    use of resources in such a manner that they will never be exhausted.