Food waste exists even in Europe’s poorest countries, says the director of Wastecooking

31. 7. 2017

Author: Marta Obršálová

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization a third of all food produced worldwide is thrown away. In Europe, this is equivalent to 89 tons of groceries per year. How can we stop this waste? Georg Misch, director of the film Wastecooking – Make Food, Not Waste calls cook David Gross. He goes on a road trip through Europe, cooking exclusively what others throw away and meets unconventional top chefs, food activists, scientists and gourmets and calls our everyday consumer lifestyle into question.
This documentary was screened within the event Dokumentární pondělí on June 31 at the Cinema Světozor in Prague, Czech Republic. We took the opportunity to ask the director and the producer a few questions.

Your career is pretty unusual for a director of documentaries - a sound engineer and director of commercials. When did you decide to go for documentaries?

Georg Misch: Coming from the British tradition, the double role of sound recordist and director is not so uncommon, such as Nick Broomfield. Commercials was just an excursion - lucrative but not feeding the soul. Reality is always stranger than fiction and that’s what I like to discover with passion.

Before the document Wastecooking – Make Food, Not Waste, you had made a film about food. What is attractive about this topic for you? Are you interested in environmental issues?

Georg Misch & Ralph Wieser: We don’t deliberately specialize in the production of films about food, even if it may seem so. What we are looking for are innovative approaches to exciting topics. For example, Cooking History, directed by Peter Kerekes, had that potential and definitely met our standards for film because of Peter’s unique take on the interesting subject. With respect to Wastecooking, we were thrilled about the series-format and its recognition value with its dumpster kitchen and David’s car running on recycled vegetable oil. A series about an activist driving through Europe and demonstrating ways to fight food waste - that was something we had not done before, but were keen to try out and it fortunately worked out well.

How did you find your main protagonist - David Gross?

Ralph Wieser: We knew David Gross as a filmmaker whom we had talked to about various project ideas. When I saw him cooking delicious dishes for visitors at a film festival out of recycled food, I could see the potential of his activism for a film project. That’s how the idea of Wastecooking started to develop.

How and why did you choose the 5 countries? David, the main character of the film, said that in some countries, sharing your philosophy was much easier – e.g. in Germany.

Georg Misch & Ralph Wieser: We filmed in 5 countries because Wastecooking was produced to be a 5-part series (à 26 min) and then we also have the festival version featuring all 5 destinations in a 81-minute film. Just recently ARTE has showed the second season of Wastecooking where David Gross travelled to Denmark, England, Italy, Greece and Romania for another 5 episodes. No matter where we filmed, the concept of Wastecooking aroused interest in each country. We found that food waste exists even in Europe’s poorest countries, such as Romania, which is featured in the second season, yet there are also dedicated activists and initiatives who fight food waste and spread their knowledge.

Did you change your habits after shooting this movie? According to you, what is the ideal way to stop food wasting?

Georg Misch & Ralph Wieser: We were already quite eco-conscious, but Wastecooking surely made us even more alert in terms of avoiding food waste. In order to stop food waste, it’s a good start not to buy too much food in the first place - so it’s best to do grocery shopping with a prepared shopping list you can stick to, and not on an empty stomach because if you’re hungry, you automatically buy more.

Where is the origin of the change - what should be the impulse legislation or maybe public pressure on supermarkets and politicians?
Georg Misch & Ralph Wieser: Interestingly, during the first broadcast of Wastecooking season one on ARTE about two years ago, the French parliament enacted a law for French supermarkets to give away leftover food to social institutions instead of dumping it. Such laws are a milestone in food waste reduction. However, it is crucial that activists and social institutions continue to spread the word about food waste, teach people how to prevent it and encourage politicians to do something about it.

Please, tell us a bit more about your plans for the future.

Georg Misch & Ralph Wieser: Season 2 of Wastecooking was just broadcast own ARTE and our feature documentary Ties That Bind directed by Ivette Löcker is going to be shown at international festivals and celebrate its cinema release in December 2017. We recently finished the production of the feature documentary Are You Sleeping, Brother Jakob by Stefan Bohun which will soon start its festival circuit as well. With Stefan Bohun, we are also currently developing our first feature film project, called Queens. At the moment, we have two projects in production: firstly, Iron Route by Sebastian Brameshuber, and secondly, another documentary series called Old Crafts, Young Masters about innovative and traditional handcraft in Europe, directed by Georg Misch. In terms of future plans, we received a Media slate fund for developing various new projects.

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