Monday, November 17, 2008
Directed by Stefan Nadelman, USA, 5 minutes 30 seconds
Source: Tourist Pictures
"Food Fight" is a really clever film made using (digital) stop-motion animation. The film traces the general history of "American-centric" warfare from World War I up to the second Gulf War, substituting food for human beings.
The foodstuff replacement functions on two levels: first, it preempts any offensive characterization (or, as some might see it, caricaturization) of entire nations by an outsider. In such a simple stop-motion animation film, it's absolutely necessary to depict the players in each war as sweeping generalizations, or to go even further, as symbols. Furthermore, in order for the viewer to be able to play the guessing game of figuring out the wars being shown, these symbols need to be radically different from one another and based in something culturally recognizable. In light of these necessities, if Nadelman had attempted to fashion clay figurines of Japanese people, for example, as an American director he would likely run the risk of being called out as racially insensitive. Food, however, is something we all know and love (...dare I use the much-maligned word "universal"?); anybody can identify at least one food item that is strongly associated with their native country, and most people can associate certain foods with those foods' respective countries of origin. To go back to the example of Japan, then, using sushi to symbolize Japan as an entire nation/military player, as Nadelman does, is a relatively innocuous symbolization that also dodges esotericism.
Second, replacing people with food items highlights the absurdity of war. Although I'm sure anyone would be much pressed to say that war is funny, I would call "Food Fight" a humorous film. Obviously the incessant barrage of war depictions also plays a crucial role in creating a farcical effect, but by separating warfare from human beings, Nadelman severs the profoundly emotional ties we as human beings may have to a specific war/conflict, to warfare in general, or to the more general idea of death and destruction. In halting these instinctual associations, we can momentarily distance ourselves from warfare--and if, like me, you think this is an antiwar film, we can see with more clarity the silliness of waging war and the unnecessary destruction it causes.
That said, I really enjoy the interactive nature of this film. Nadelman wrote on the website on which the film premiered (www.touristpictures.com) that he had received conflicting suggestions to have captions and to not have captions [specifying nations and wars], but ultimately decided to not have captions so as to let the viewer probe the depths of her gastronomical knowledge/high school history education for what each food fight sequence represents. I'll let you all decide if this film could function as propaganda, if it perpetuates an American imperialist agenda, insert-your-view-on-the-theory-of-history-here, but I won't talk anymore about it, because I think the best way to view "Food Fight" is to first go blindly into it, then afterwards look at the food fight cheat sheet and watch it again.