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Written by Earth & Science

June 22, 2011 at 8:00 am

Christina Kirstinesgaard: “Mad A/S is More than a Movie”

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As promised: Below is a short Q&A with Christina Kirstinesgaard, producer/project manager on “Mad A/S,” the upcoming Danish documentary on industrial farming and its alternatives.

“Mad A/S” is a Danish counterpart to the U.S.-produced, “Food Inc.” But Christina plans for the documentary to become more than “just” a movie.

“The movie project is a seed for cultural change,” she says.

By opting for a bottom-up approach where parts of the funding is reached via micro-donations from individual contributors, Kirstinesgaard hopes the Danish population will feel as stakeholders in the finished documentary. Hopefully, she says, this approach will inspire a feeling of ownership with the viewers that will increase the movie’s impact when it hits the cinemas and when it moves on to its political, deliberative and educational afterlife.

“Mad A/S” is produced in collaboration with a research panel consisting of medical physicians, professors and PhDs, and will be distributed free-of-charge to Danish educational institutions upon completion.

Below is the full interview. Please feel free to leave questions, ideas or concerns in the comments section above.

Earth & Science: You are making a movie about industrial farming in Denmark. Why?

Christina Kirstinesgaard: Right now, there are so many things going on in the industrial farming — everything from animal abuses to humans falling ill from eating the food. So, together with the group, I wish to shed light on the subject, communicate the truths and point to alternatives — there are many. The story will be full of hope and told with a bit of humor.

E&S: “The title, Mad A/S,” is a direct translation of the American documentary, “Food Inc.” Is it possible to do a similar documentary in a country like Denmark with no Monsanto or Smithfield Foods?

CK: “MAD A/S” is inspired by “Food Inc.” But it will be focusing on the problems in Denmark. Denmark is usually following the American lead with a delay of 10 years or so, but that’s no longer necessary. It’s more fun to plan ahead than it is to do damage control. Unfortunately, Monsanto is already very much a presence in Denmark — they’re already present at approximately 10 experimental plots with GMOs [Genetically Modified Organisms, ed.]

E&S: How would you characterize the creative forces behind this movie? Are you activists, journalists, consumers or producers?

CK: We’re a good mix of all those people. We have an incredibly skilled, professional director with many years of experience with documentaries and who, as the first Dane, has won an EU prize [The European Parliament Journalism Prize, ed.] for best documentary. We have many skilled and “professional” consumers, we have a research panel with professors, PhDs and physicians and we have 100 individuals who’ve contributed with donations ranging from 50 kroner to 10.000 kroner [approx. 10-2.000 USD, ed.]. We have about 1000 members on Facebook who support us and have faith in the project. This is a movie that simply HAS TO and WILL happen.

E&S: “Food Inc.” presents organic farming as a solution to the problems with conventional farming. What is your take on this?

CK: There are big issues that we wish to deal with. Obviously, organic/biodynamic agriculture are solutions as they’ve been proven to produce foods that don’t contain traces of poison, but we also want to talk about permaculture, CSA [community-supported agriculture, ed.] and the philosophy behind Frie Bønder [Free Farmers, link in Danish. Ed.] who believe farms should be smaller in size.

E&S: “Mad A/S” is partially funded from bottom and up. What have been the pros and cons with this financial model?

CK: The dream is to be able to say: ‘It’s the Danish population who has asked for this movie.’ That would create a very special impact — on the public as well as on politicians. And, by the way, who can sue the Danish population? Unfortunately, micro-funding is a rather slow process — 50 kroner hither and thither sums up to large amounts, but only slowly and in waves. We still hope and wish for something grand to happen.

E&S: Who else are contributing financially?

CK: We’ve received 15.000 kroner [approx. 3.000 USD, ed.] from an organic foundation. We’ve applied for funding at larger foundations and are still working on it. But you have to be brave to support this project! That’s another reason why micro-funding appeals to us — it gives us a chance to be brave together.

E&S: Lastly, when can we expect to see the movie in the theaters?

CK: Our initial goal was to release the movie this spring and everything is ready. But it takes time to raise 1.5 mill. kroner. We’ve been invited to the film festival in Copenhagen this fall so we need to be ready by then. If we really push it, our director can have the job done in about 7 months from when we’ve got the funding.

E&S: Is there something you’d like to add?

CK: This is not ‘just’ a movie project but a seed for cultural change. First thing is to screen the movie in Danish cinemas. Then we’ll follow up with a series in the media, free educational CDs for all of the 2.5000 educational institutions in Denmark, debates, an active research panel and a constant follow-up. Movies are great at touching people and affecting our attitudes towards life, but afterward you’ll quickly disappear from people’s everyday life and the good initiatives are forgotten. But with a long follow-up and by repeating the message you can get the movement continuing in the right direction.

Thanks to Christina Kirstinesgaard for answering these questions. Check out “Mad A/S'” website or Facebook page for more information.

Below is a short clip from the much loved and equally lambasted American documentary, “Food Inc.”

Written by Earth & Science

April 27, 2011 at 1:36 pm

New Documentary to Investigate Danish Food Industry

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Mad A/S. The title of a new Danish documentary is inspired by the American documentary, Food Inc. (2008), that sought to expose the powers wielded on U.S. farmers by food company behemoths such as Monsanto, Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods.

Now, with Mad A/S, Danes will get a chance to see if a similar critique can be brought to the Danish agricultural scene.

While still in its developmental phase, Mad A/S looks like it could turn out to become an important and relevant film. When I first heard of the movie, I was worried that it would become yet another activist flick — uncritically confirming existing prejudices. But this doesn’t appear to be the ambition — far from it. Instead, it seems the premise should read something like this:

There are a ton of opinions and beliefs out there about the food we eat and the ones who produce it. And sometimes we get carried away by our emotions. But what kinds of documentation can we actually find and how does the food industry view the situation?
– (paraphrase based on Mad A/S’s informational material.) 

You can read more about the movie here (link in Dan.) And, if you feel like supporting the initiative, you can spread the word on Facebook and Twitter (#Madas).

Another interesting thing about Mad A/S is that it will be funded largely via micro-contributions — from bottom and up. This means the movie won’t happen unless its viewers want it to (more or less). And, I believe, it could create a strong communal base that will later go on to support the educational efforts that are intended to follow the movie as well as the public debate it’s meant to spur.

Mad A/S will be distributed free-of-charge to Danish primary schools for educational purposes and if more people have a personal asset in the movie, then maybe the following debates and educational efforts will inherit some muscle and heart and represent the demographics of Danes more than just producers or activists.

That would be very food 2.0.

I will try to get an interview with the film’s producer, Christina Kirstinesgaard, to post here on Earth & Science.

Written by Earth & Science

April 26, 2011 at 9:03 am