There’s food shortage around the world. Hunger is rife. We’ve heard it all before – but what if it was America, the most powerful country on Earth, which evokes an image of a more than well-fed population, that was going through its own nation-wide crisis too?
It’s this surprising issue that makes up the subject of Finding North, a documentary that points out the dire straits large areas of the US are in. It makes fascinating observations on the lives a set of people lead, who struggle daily to make ends meet for not only themselves, but their kids. The competent filmmaking chops allow each interview with the stricken families to touch an emotional place – it’s hard to not feel empathy for these people, trapped in a vicious cycle of food stamps, unemployment and having to stretch what little they do have to the limit.
In the current economic climate, this documentary has come out in a well-judged choice of historic period. Its themes of never having enough will ring true not just with American audiences, but others also facing recessions, crashes and general financial ill-being. Finding North‘s subjects are at once strong and flawed, their weaknesses are matched only by their will to struggle on. It can be quite a powerful ride, and the real-life drama unfolds at an unhurried pace, deciding to explore fully the tribulations of these individuals – and in turn, the USA.
Aesthetically, the entire documentary has an almost indie-film look to it; warm, fuzzy lenses capture the reality of the people’s faces, while the epic landscape shots at the beginning infer a framing of connectedness to proceedings. Apart from these niceties, it’s rather pedestrian piece of camera work; efficient, but ultimately uninspiring. Documentaries shouldn’t just rely on the subjects of their footage – the footage itself should also compel.
Apart from that, the film successfully pokes holes in America’s backwards school food programme and ‘food deserts’, illustrating the need for a first-world country to have an equally first-world eating situation. Despite the uncompromised handling of the material, and the conviction the interviewees show (one of them a certain Mr. Jeff Bridges), the statistics are usually wonky; there’s a deal of hardship going on, but not quite enough evidence backing it to entirely sell it.
Nonetheless, it takes courage to film a documentary about something which, on first impression, most people would ask, ‘why should I care?’ Finding North does a fine job of making you care.