Movie Review: The Fruit Hunters
They are a group of enthusiasts; welcoming yet indulgent, wise yet odd, and they’re now at centre stage in a fascinating and juicy documentary: The Fruit Hunters. But these fruit lovers are not just hunters. They’re historians, detectives, connoisseurs and farmers — and, in one case, a notable celebrity. The doc, which had a sneak peek at this year’s TIFF, officially opens at Bloor Cinema this weekend.
Documentarian Yung Chang wonderfully unearths a “secret paradise beyond the grocery,” as he puts it, following these so-called fruit hunters around the world to uncover, educate and tantalize, blending the present day with the surprisingly influential history of fruit on society: wars were waged, and empires fell, all in the name of fruit.
Chang takes us on a lyrical and visual journey, with no shortage of fruit-porn (the film opens with Chang admitting a slight arousal when eating fruit) and some lighthearted detours, including what can only be described as a “fruit trip.” He takes us on some literal trips as well, including to the jungle of Borneo (where a fruit elder explains which fruit is lethal to humans, as well as the ones you can enjoy provided you don’t make fun of it) and even to the hills of Hollywood. There, we meet up with Bill Pullman, actor and fruit lover, who has his own exotic fruit farm. Pullman becomes one of the central figures of the film, and rightly so due to his warm screen presence and quick wit, as he meets with fellow fruit-passioneers in an attempt to form a Hollywood fruit collective.
At the heart of the film are two prevailing questions. The first involves how to solve an apparently looming banana crisis — a shortage in Latin America looks to have effects around the world. The second question, though never directly asked, is a simple one: why are so many of us settling for fruit from a grocery store? Ultimately, North Americans favour convenience over flavour, and that case is made subtly on several occasions. Chang doesn’t shove anything in your face — or mouth for that matter — but he paints a quirky and strangely captivating picture of a world beyond apples and oranges.
Then again, as the film points out in one of its escapades through the annals of history, John MacIntosh would have a lot to say about the meaning behind the apple.
The Fruit Hunters, Bloor Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W., 416-637-3123. Nov. 23-29
Director Yung Chang will be available for a Skype Q&A at the Nov. 24 screening