||While many films at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival offer thrills and high concepts, the documentary The Moo Man focuses on an English farmer who treats his cows better than some people treat humans. The documentary shows the benefits of old school sustainability farming.
The co-directors Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier and farmer Stephen Hook (sorry no cows in this interview) took a few minutes from the Festival to answer a few questions:
Q - How important is it for people to know where their food comes from?
A - Andy – For us it is very important. It is one of the key messages in the film.
A - Stephen – For us it is important for your own well being to know what you put inside your body. From the farmer's point of view if consumers start to ask where their food comes from that is quite empowering. It is so good for the farmers to get direct feedback from the consumer about the quality of his own food. It is rewarding for the farmer not just financially but for his own self beliefs.
A - Andy – What people perceive as being cheap food is quite often over-processed food which is convenient to buy but is that really cheap food? There are welfare issues at stake in terms of animal welfare. Also there is a huge food waste issue.
Q - Does this film create an “Omnivore’s Dilemma”?
A - Andy – If we buy local than I actually think that it is cheaper. It is reasonable (price) compared to the supermarkets. Price is not the main issue. It’s a quality issue.
Q - How important are food films such as Food Inc, King Corn, etc?
A – Andy – I personally think that these films are very important. But I do think that our film is a bit different in the sense that a lot of these other ones point out that the world is bad, the world is bad, the world is bad and perhaps they don’t give you a way out whereas ours we take it for granted that the world is bad but what is fantastic is that we capture a farmer like Steve who does things in a credible way and he has this great relationship with his animals. Our film doesn’t push a message, it lets you make your mind up.
Q - Since the dairy farm is lo-fi, how is your film lo-fi?
A – Andy – There are defiantly parallels between the film and Steve’s operation. It’s back to basics. It’s long, slow, high quality in terms of how we made our film. It took three to four years to make. I self shoot and I needed the time to develop a relationship with Steve and the cows.
Q – After making this film how do you see the future of small farming?
A – Andy – That’s a really difficult one. Hopefully when you make films you make a difference. People are empowered and start to think more about their food. In Britain and in the U.S. small dairy farmers are under threat. You have to hope that you can make a difference otherwise why bother?
A – Stephen – In terms of film, this might empower some small dairy farmers to take a direct route to market, directly to the consumer, and if that happens then that might save the small family farmer which is still under threat not just in the U.K. but here in the U.S.
Q - What should Brits take away from this film?
A – Andy – What’s interesting about this story is that although it is a unique story, that in the U.S. it is slightly different but in the U.K. the farms are our countryside. If we lose our farms we lose our countryside. That’s not the same in the States. So the farmers are the custodians of our countryside. I hope that message comes across in the film.