Nourishing Hero: Ana Sofia Joanes

In our Nourishing Heroes series, we feature the individuals and organizations who inspire us with food that nourishes body, soul and planet. Do you know a Nourishing Hero we should feature on NOURISH Evolution? Let us know who inspires you!

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jamie Yuenger of FRESH: The Movie as part of their Women Nourish Us blog series. This week, the tables turned and I spoke with Ana Sofia Joanes, the woman who directed and produced the movie.

FRESH focuses on America’s food system in a way that’s a bit more approachable and positive than a film like Food, Inc. I found it to be a great introduction to the main issues and opportunities on our plate today and was thrilled to see that FRESH is offering home screening licenses; a revolutionary concept in the indie film world. (And … the FRESH folks are offering a generous special for NOURISH Evolution members – get 20% off by entering the code ‘nourishnetwork’ — click here to host a home screening)

Ana’s worldview was first cast when she was eighteen on a trip around the world to study, first hand, the impacts of globalization. “It was an eye opening trip in that we not only learned an alternative perspective, but also got to see our own preconceptions.” The experience taught Ana to read between the lines of what we’re told and what’s really happening.

She developed that critical mindset further in law school, but tipped towards the creative when she founded Reel Youth, Inc., a video production company dedicated to underserved youth. “I’d come to find that it was hard to share ideas. I found that I could be sitting around the table with people and we could agree intellectually, but it didn’t change behavior. I got to feeling that telling stories could be central to changing people’s perspective.”

Ana eventually stepped into the role of filmmaker herself, first with a documentary on mental illness and medication, and then with FRESH. But she bristles at the thought of preaching through her films. “I want people to be open, to connect to the story emotionally where it hits them.” Which is one of the reasons FRESH has such a varied cast of characters. “We all come to the food movement for different reasons. As a filmmaker, I look for characters to tell the narrative.”

In that way, the messages we hear in the media take shape and form in the film. “Organic farming” becomes bucolic moments on Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. “Buy locally” looks like David Ball, owner of a small supermarket who sources from local farms. “Sustainably-raised meat” is the gripping story of Russ Kremer, a former industrial hog farmer who has changed his ways and now raises hogs naturally, with no antibiotics. And “making food accessible” becomes the charismatic Will Allen of Growing Power and his mission to teach city folk how to farm (you should see people’s faces when he urges them to play with worms).

All these stories weave together a rich depiction of our food system—where it’s failing and where there’s hope. “Yes, I wanted FRESH to have facts. But even more so I wanted to reach people’s hearts.”

But Ana doesn’t consider her job done just because the movie’s complete. “I think it’s important to link my work with the end result.” So she and her team developed a way to turn inspiration into action and help people connect with their communities. They pioneered a licensing model that allows people to purchase the film for $29.95 and host a screening in their own home.

“What FRESH does is get people inspired, hopeful and ready to do something. We wanted to find a way to galvanize that energy.” The hope is that the film will spark conversation and action (join a CSA anyone?) amongst small groups, with a ripple effect into communities and, ideally, society at large. FRESH is about food, yes, but it’s also about “revitalizing local economies. These conversations are central to our society and economic well-being.”

Click here to order a copy of FRESH and host a screening in your own home. Enter ‘nourishnetwork’ as the discount code and get 20% off!

Here’s a question for you … would you like us to put together a FRESH menu you could make for your get-togethers? Leave a comment here and let us know.

Meet our other Nourishing Heroes:

Fresh … The Movie

There are some familiar faces in this movie to be sure: Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, for instance, and the ubiquitous Michael Pollan. There are the horrifying images (and reality) of feedlots and mass-produced … you name it. But there are also uplifting stories of people–farmers, business people, policy makers–who are taking a stand and getting creative to change things. One person I’m particularly interested in learning more about is Will Allen, the founder of Growing Power, who’s empowering urban communities across the country to feed themselves through farming/gardening.

You can find FRESH screenings across the US. Or you can host your own. Anyone in Sonoma County interested? I’d love to see the whole shebang.

In the meantime, you can watch trailers and snippets here.