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Talent on Tap – Tiffany Ayalik and Caroline Cox Ask if There’s Food For the Rest of Us

Are you concerned about what the future holds for our food supply? I honestly haven’t given it much thought myself. I live in the city and you can even get your groceries ordered and delivered. Food has become a monopoly and the only time I liked monopoly was when I was playing it with friends. Unlike global warming, we can all do something to initiate a guaranteed food supply. This is not a one country problem, this is a global one and the more people that can understand it and propagate the message – the better guarantee that everyone can eat, and lives be sustained even in the worst of conditions. 

 

Around the world there are clusters of organized groups that are empowering themselves to grow food for self survival and for their communities. From livestock to fruits and vegetables, a vitamin/protein rich diet can be achieved with a group effort from like-minded, food concerned, community leaders and monopoly free people… I don’t mean the board game, those are still okay.

 

If you’re still not visualizing the impact of an actual food shortage, I’ll be honest, I didn’t visualize Covid either and it took the world by an unrelenting and foreboding storm. Food For the Rest of Us is a feature documentary that not only helps to paint a picture of how we can help, but it also takes snapshots of family, built out of communities working together for a common cause – to sustain themselves through growing their own food. 

 

Caroline Cox (Writer, Director) and Tiffany Ayalik (Producer)  Food For the Rest of Us. This film premiered on May 6th at DOXA. Writer/Director Caroline Cox is a Northwest Territories based filmmaker that specializes in projects focusing on culture, environment and lifestyles of Canada’s far north. Producer Tiffany, is a Juno award-winning Inuk throat singer, actor and filmmaker. 

 

Food for the Rest of Us presents four stories of people who are leading a revolution to a better world, from the ground up. Portraits of an Indigenous-owned and youth-run organic farm in Hawaii, a Black urban grower in Kansas City, a female Kosher butcher in Colorado working with the Queer Community, and an Inuit community on the Arctic Coast are braided together into an unforgettable journey. 

 

 trailer here: https://vimeo.com/535961258 

 

Food for the Rest of Us is co-produced with Jerri Thrasher and is Executive Produced by Stuart Henderson (90th Parallel Productions).   

 

Copper Quartz Media is a Northern-based, majority Inuit-owned and 100% women operated film, television and digital media company that specializes in remote locations and untold stories. 

 

I’ve had the great privilege of watching this film and was blown away by the storylines, the people, the music… the message. Tiffany and Caroline were extremely delightful to talk to. They are adventurous but steadfast in their pursuit of truth and social awareness. This is how that conversation went… 

HNMAG “This is an amazing film. I also love the musical score. This is filmed in multiple locations, who was the one that did most of the travelling to each location?”

CAROLINE “We both worked on the film and I travelled the most as the director.  Our team was Kiarash Sadigh, who was our director of photography and he was great. I had worked with him on another film up north, The River of Forgiveness together, which is where we met. Our sound mixer was Travis McCready, who’s based in Yellowknife; our production company is based there. That was the main crew, just the three of us.”

 

HNMAG “Did it take a surmountable time to put this film together?”

CAROLINE “Yes, we had received the ‘Talent To Watch’ fund, which is really a micro-budget and it was our first film, but we are used to working with a smaller budget, at this stage in our career. We were very pragmatic as far as the budgeting went and what our big lofty film could be and how we could make it work. It was a well thought out production schedule and we only spent 2-4 days in each location. We would just drop in, film and then we left (laughing). It didn’t take too long to film but the post production process took a little longer, mostly because of Covid and having to adjust our approach. I was up north and my editor was in Toronto, so there were a lot of long hours on Zoom (laughing).”

 

HNMAG “Throughout this documentary, you have 4 very diverse groups of people that have interesting stories weaving throughout each group and their reasons why they became involved. How did you go about finding each group?”

TIFFANY “Caroline and I started working together on a project several years ago, called Wild Kitchen. Caroline had created, directed, edited, produced and I was the host. That show was very closely connected to food and people, whether they were hunting, trapping, farming or other forms of horticulture. It was working on that show that we started developing a huge community around the show, which for the most part, was outside of the north. We started to see that there were similarly like-minded people that are craving this closer connection to their food, the sources and the land in general. As we started becoming more immersed in the global and International community, it was when we started to see that people were not just using it to feed themselves but they were using it to liberate themselves from various forms of oppression. They were using food and farming as a form of activism, which was a really intriguing stepping stone from Wild Kitchen. It inspired us to create Food For the Rest of Us and it started with community outreach. We started to get to know people, reaching out to them and doing lots of research. If they didn’t think that they were a good fit, they would recommend someone else for us to talk to. It leapfrogged from there within the tight knit community of people that are all very inter-connected and really excited by this concept and eager to help them and support us in our research. It’s how we began to pick the subjects – which led us to these 4 stories, from the high arctic to the American Midwest to Hawaii. Even though they look similar in the work that they’re doing, the impulse and the heart of the matter is so similar, there’s a lot of kinship and community across these very diverse/huge landscapes that are really connected at a route core of wanting to do this work in the world.”

 

HNMAG “Do you believe that it’s possible to take that same model and apply it to other social issues?”

TIFFANY “We really need a diversity of approaches because what works in the high Arctic isn’t going to necessarily work in Hawaii. It can be coming from the same foundation but how that work manifests, needs to be so diverse to reflect the people and the land and the realities of what that community is. I feel it’s a great model for a myriad of different social issues but we need to go local and look to the leaders in each specific community. They’re the ones doing the work, they’re the ones on the ground, they’re the ones that can better implement this grassroots movement and we need to take our cue from them.”

 

HNMAG “Are there any other groups that you might have wanted in the film that didn’t work out for logistical reasons?”

CAROLINE “I think you can look at many different groups and many people have asked us why we chose certain groups but it really came down to the research process and timing. I think that these issues stretch into the southern hemisphere and I think that we could have cast a really broad net. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to include anyone (laughing), it was just the way it worked out.”

 

HNMAG “Had you considered reaching out to Mexico?”

CAROLINE “When we were doing some of the preliminary research, there’s a lot of communities in Central America and Mexico and there’s some really interesting stuff happening in that region/Latin America.”

 

HNMAG “Did you capture all of the footage in one year?”

CAROLINE “We found out that we qualified for the Talent to Watch funding in June of 2019. We had been pitching the idea around and had some great pitch meetings but nobody was willing to pull the trigger. Tiffany and I had formed a production company since Wild Kitchen and we also knew we wanted to film in Tuktoyaktuk at the greenhouse. There’s a very short growing season in the high Arctic and we knew we had to get on top of it right away if we were going to film in that year. Very quickly between finding out we got the funding we put a team together and were up in the Arctic shooting, then Covid happened. I had to go back up to Tuktoyaktuk this summer to do more shooting. You couldn’t bring a crew in but I could go, so it worked out well.”                  

 

HNMAG “Did the financing cover all the travel or did you have to go out of pocket?”

CAROLINE “No we didn’t have to go out of pocket. We actually had quite a number of funders besides the initial Talent to Watch fund. There was the Canada Media Fund, North West Tel, NWT Film Commission, NWT Arts Council and the Ted Rogers Hot Docs Fund. In the fall we found out that we were one of the films selected by the Redford Centre, which funds environmentally themed projects out of the US, so it was great and it gave us a little boost at the end. We were able to put a lot of that toward the soundtrack and it was great to be able to hire lots of Canadian artists to contribute.”

 

HNMAG “I really loved the way that you had put this film together. There are so many personal stories along with a variety of social issues, such as racism, poverty, LGBTQ, especially the incredible program you shined a light on with doubling the food stamps?”

TIFFANY “The ‘double bucks’, it really is an amazing program.”

 

HNMAG “Is that program unique to that city?”

CAROLINE “I’m not sure when they started it or how common it is, but I found that it is more common in the US through working on the film. I believe some Farmers Markets do have a similar program where they will double the value of your food stamps for the Farmers Market.”

HNMAG “Where can we see this film?”

TIFFANY “We’re having our world premiere at the DOXA Festival here in Vancouver and because it’s online this year, anyone in Canada can get tickets to DOXA to enjoy the film. Because it’s online, it’s not limited to British Columbia. It’s actually a silver lining with it moving online and it makes it more accessible. Certainly, we would want to have it in a theatre, with people and a live audience, but we will have that eventually.”        

 

HNMAG “Were either of you able to taste some of the foods that were in the film?”

CAROLINE “I probably tried all of it (laughing).”

TIFFANY “I wish I could’ve been at all the locations (laughing). Unfortunately, the only location I was able to go to was Hawaii… which was pretty great (laughing). I was in Vancouver, so it was a direct flight.” 

 

HNMAG “Is there any chance of Wild Kitchen coming back?”

CAROLINE “We plan on doing 5 more episodes this summer and we’re going to include a Cree language component in partnership with the NW Métis Nation and we’re really excited. We’re going to be structuring it like an educational program to make it easier to go and film it. It’s been a while and it’s a fun show to work on.”

TIFFANY “It’s funny because it doesn’t have a large following in Canada but it has a huge following in the US. We’re trying to build a bigger profile in Canada but we’ll see where it takes off and you have to roll the dice sometimes.”

CAROLINE “I wanted to also give a shout out to our editor, Graham Withers, who is a very established documentary editor. Between him and Kiarash, they were both incredible.”     

 

I love food and discussing different foods from different countries and this film checked off all the boxes. They are a dynamic team and they want us to start thinking about food. It can’t be that hard, can it?

 

Food for the Rest of Us is the first feature film from Cox and Ayalik and was a recipient of the Telefilm Talent to Watch grant in 2019. From there it went on to win funding from Ted Rogers HotDocs Fund and Redford Centre Grants, and was the winner of CMPA’s Prime Time Throwdown. The film was also one of 5 films from across Canada included in the Good Pitch Vancouver cohort, which raises awareness and funds for films with a high potential for impact.

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