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LFF Review: Canned Dreams

In a society that is marked by the golden arches of McDonald’s and triple whoppers with curly fries, we no longer stop and ask ourselves “what did it take to get this food on our table?” The reality is however that your tin of food has probably seen more countries and people than you’ll ever do. Katja Gauriloff’s documentary takes us on a 30,000km journey following a simple can of ravioli, from sourcing to selling, and shows us the life and dreams of the people who produce it.

From the ore mines of Brazil and a Danish pig farmer, through several different countries, ending up on a shelf in a Finnish grocery store, such can be the exciting life of your canned food products. As Gauriloff follows an unlikely and lone contender (Mr Ravioli) she provides us with a snapshot of the lives of the workers behind it, revealing some of their deepest thoughts and ambitions.

The harsh reality of life and the simple beauties of it are both highlighted in Canned Dreams, sometimes because of the stark contrasts with what are eyes see and our ears hear. This is demonstrated when Gauriloff interviews a man who slaughters pigs for a living. He talks about the love for his daughter, in a gentle, tender tone which is at complete odds with the job at hand. He says he prays for God to forgive him but that he has no choice as his family needs to eat and his job keeps them alive.

Heikki Färm’s and Tuomo Hutriin’s cinematography is striking throughout – whether it’s the sweeping landscape shots that linger, or the detailed close-ups of the mechanical processes taking place, everything seems to come alive and declare its meaning. Even in sound the creational aspect prevails when the ‘natural’ thuds and hums of the machines, processes, and landscapes take main focus over the music.

The interviews themselves were often recorded without a camera, revealing a lot of honest regrets, secrets and desperation. The tapes were then edited so as to play alongside some stunning still portrait shots or over footage that shows the interviewees in the factories or plants they work in. Though Gauriloff wanted them to talk about their lives in general, on film they are only depicted in their role that leads to the production of the can of ravioli. The resulting contrast makes for a powerful film, which – although it is not a campaigning movie by any stretch of the imagination – will really make you think about the harsh realities of life and how and by who your food was produced.

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Nicola graduated from Brunel University with a BSc in Sociology and Media and is now currently studying for a MSc at LSE in Society and Culture, while working in the UK film industry. The Up Series (beginning with 7up) sparked her interest in documentaries, particularly those with a social and cultural themes. She is enthusiastic about documentaries because of their capacity to inform and incite change, as seen from The Thin Blue Line and, more recently, Josh Fox’s Gasland.

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