Shalom Life | November 09, 2014

Director Ari Cohen Discusses His Latest Doc, ‘The Family Farm’

Cohen's film explores the farm to table process through the lens of Canadian small farmers.

By: Sara Torvik

Published: October 29th, 2014 in Culture » Film » Interviews

The Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival is taking place this year on November 6-9 in Toronto. The main goal of the festival is to showcase the most outstanding and compelling films across all genres that shed light on environmental issues in Canada. One of the filmmakers who will be presenting his work at this year’s festival is Ari Cohen. Cohen’s film is entitled The Family Farm and it “explores the farm to table process through the lens of Canadian small farmers and identifies the systematic barriers they face in running a profitable farm.”

We spoke with Cohen about the making of the film, and what he thinks the future has in store for the farm industry in Canada.

Shalom Life (SL): Your new documentary, The Family Farm, details the struggles faced by independent farmers in Canada. What inspired you to tell this story?

Ari Cohen (AC): As a documentary filmmaker I have always been interested in using my personal lens to shed light on important socio-political issues. A few years ago, I shot a film about the falafel and observed how this dish serves as a window into understanding Middle Eastern identity and conflict. Throughout this project I also came to realize the interconnections between and within foods systems and began to reflect on the food issues we face in Canada. More specifically, I sought to better understand why food insecurity is so prevalent within a a resource-rich country like Canada.


SL: Did you grow up on a farm yourself?

AC: I was born in Morocco, where my grandfather and father participated in the cattle and wine industry, but was raised in the heart of Montreal. I never played much of a hands-on farming role, but have always been fascinated by the work ethic of farmer's and as a hardworking documentary filmmaker I believe I can relate to this job - lifestyle type of profession. I grew up in with lots of home cooking and in my teenage years I would frequent fast food chains and although I still possess a deep connection and passion for great food I have turned my attention towards maintaining a healthier and more balanced diet. As someone that appreciates variety in taste, I have always appreciated the diversity of foods available in Canada, yet I frequently wonder about the impacts of food imports/exports, affordable access to healthier food and especially take out foods which has significant impact on our health.

SL: How did you decide which families and locations you were going to feature in the film?

AC: This took many hours of research, but in the end I decided to present a unique mix of stories that I felt were representative of Canada's diverse farming landscape. These characters and their stories not only focus on prominent issues like sustainability, the importance of migrant workers, farm succession and small versus large scale farming operations, but shed light on specific geographies and farming styles within and across Canada.


SL: What is the central message that you want viewers to take from this film?

AC: First and foremost I want people to be exposed to the farming way of life and the everyday highlights and challenges that Canadian farmers face. I think it is important for people to realize the important role family farms play in maintaining the health of our communities and planet, and emphasize to viewers that they too can play a role in helping to support family farmers and sustainable practices by purchasing local foods.

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