Two local nonprofits are teaming up to raise awareness about food sustainability in an unconventional format.
Compared to outdoor showings of films like Back to the Future and Dirty Dancing that pop up regularly during summertime, an upcoming series of food documentary screenings held under the stars with wine and picnic offerings at the Santa Ynez Valley Botanic Garden (SYVBG) sounds far from commonplace.
“It’s always stuff like Jaws and Footloose and Pretty Woman,” said Katie Smith-Adair, co-founder of the IRL Arts Foundation, a Central Coast-based nonprofit that’s collaborating with the SYVBG to host the three-night documentary festival (July 29, Aug. 12, and Aug. 26).
“I saw The Birds at an outdoor screening in Brooklyn once and it was amazing. Those are all fun, but with these films, we selected them because they’re educational. But they’re also uplifting,” Smith-Adair said. “They’re films with hope. They teach you a little something but can also make you feel good about being educated about food systems and the stories of the folks who are trying to improve things.”
Attendees will have access to a one-hour wine tasting and reception prior to the showings of Food Chains, Sustainable, and SEED: The Untold Story.
The receptions will feature complimentary tastings from local wineries, while additional wine and food offerings will be available for purchase—including picnic charcuterie boxes from Clean Slate Wine Bar and both red and white wines by the bottle from Final Girl Wines.
Combining the screenings with wine tasting is another way that Smith-Adair, the IRL Arts Foundation, and SYVBG are approaching a summer movie event from a unique angle, while also allowing guests to enjoy the scenic, immersive sights of the garden.
“It’s interesting when you can take something that maybe has been done a few times and put a little bit of a different spin on it,” Smith-Adair said. “People can get excited about that because it’s a fresh experience.”
Kicking off on Saturday, July 29, the program will screen Food Chains, a 2014 documentary from director Sanjay Rawal (3100, Run and Become) and executive producer Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation; Food, Inc.). The film is narrated by Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and follows a coalition of migrant farmworkers in Florida who face challenging working conditions and advocate for improved circumstances and fair compensation.
The summer series continues with a showing of the 2016 documentary Sustainable on Saturday, Aug. 12. This film is described as an examination of the economic and environmental instability of the United States’ food system. The documentary explores critical issues such as soil loss, water depletion, climate change, and pesticide use, while also following seventh-generation farmer Marty Travis, who pioneers a sustainable food movement based in Chicago.
A screening of SEED: The Untold Story caps the series off on Saturday, Aug. 26. This 2016 documentary comments on the “David and Goliath” battle between indigenous seed keepers and the biotech chemical companies that control the majority of the world’s seeds, according to press materials. The film features interviews with Jane Goodall, Vandana Shiva, Andrew Kimbrell, Raj Patel, and Winona Laduke.
Wine receptions start at 7 p.m. and each film screens at 8 p.m. Attendees are welcome to bring their own chairs and blankets, but no outside alcohol is allowed. Early registration is recommended as only 50 tickets, at $25 per person, will be sold per screening.
With support from the event’s sponsors, Visit SYV and Edible Santa Barbara, the new summer series enlisted Kinema, a distribution company that helped curate the program’s lineup of films, Smith-Adair said.
Above all, Smith-Adair described the film screening and wine tasting program’s goal as to “help people understand what their consumption choices mean for the planet and for their communities.”
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is bringing his Snuggie and a picnic blanket. Send comments to [email protected].