'Gus-tatory pleasures, now in film form


On Saturday I saw my favorite film of the year so far (excepting my beloved POTC), which was a full-length documentary about asparagus.

Stop laughing.

Really, Asparagus! (a Stalk-umentary), which just won the "best of" award at the Rural Route Film Festival, is a fascinating exploration of (a) what happens when U.S. drug policy goes wrong, (b) factory farming and globalization's effects on rural America, and (c) people who raise crops and the bizarre subcultures that sprout (see what I just did?) up around them. The movie follows a group of farmers in Oceana County, Michigan, as they stage their annual National Asparagus Festival (complete with a tiara-wearing queen) and struggle to compete with Peruvian growers, who are effectively subsidized by a War on Drugs law that lifted tariffs a few years ago. There are lots of good factlets in it too (did you know asparagus is a bush?). Google Video has some footage, but it really doesn't do the film justice. To get the full effect, you had to be at the screening, which featured free PBR and an ironic-cowboy-hat-wearing-hipster but was saved from itself by the presence of the aforementioned Mrs. Asparagus and one of the farmers who doubles as a policy wonk. (The filmmakers, one of whom grew up on an asparagus farm, were also there.) Asparagus! will be traveling to film festivals around the country in the next year or so -- don't miss it if it's near you. The filmmakers will also have a fully functioning website in about a week.

The image, by the way, is another example of asparagus meeting art: it's François Bonvin's "Still Life with Asparagus," 1857.