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'Eating Alabama:' Independent film follows couple trying to eat locally, seasonally

staff report • Feb 9, 2013 at 6:41 AM

In search of a simpler life, a young couple returns home to Alabama where they set out to eat the way their grandparents did — locally and seasonally. But as they navigate the agro-industrial gastronomical complex, they soon realize that nearly everything about the food system has changed since farmers once populated their family histories.

A thoughtful and often funny essay on community, the South and sustainability, “Eating Alabama” is a story about why food matters.

East Tennessee State University’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts will present “Eating Alabama,” with a guest appearance by director/producer Andrew Beck Grace, at 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 11 in ETSU’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium as part of the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers.

The documentary received the Best Alabama Film at the Sidewalk Film Festival 2012 and Winner Top Grit at 2012 Indie Grits.

“The foodies are absolutely going to love it,” said Anita DeAngelis, director of the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, “and we have a lot of people locally who are interested in locally grown foods and sustainability, so I think it’s a timely film and one that will have a lot of interest. I’ve watched the film, and I have to say, it’s also quite beautiful.”

Following a screening of his feature film, Grace and the audience will engage in a discussion about the film and Grace’s work as a filmmaker. A reception with Grace will follow the screening and question-and-answer session. Both the screening and reception are free and open to the public.

Grace and his wife, Rashmi, took this journey home to Alabama together and decided to document their experience and insights.

“The film is structured as an essay but is light and conversational, as if you were sitting down to dinner with old friends you haven’t seen in a while,” says a review from The Film Stage. “It is not a hard-hitting exposé like ‘Food Inc.’ but a reflection on our disconnection from the land, land in Alabama that has somewhat of a troubled history. A personal and historical tale, it strikes a powerful and entertaining balance that Southern first-person documentarians (such as Godfrey Cheshire’s ‘Moving Midway’) are achieving by unpacking family and regional history.”

Grace is a documentary filmmaker and native Alabamian. He’s a past fellow at the CPB/PBS Producers Academy and directs the “Documenting Justice” program at the University of Alabama.

“He describes himself as an archaeologist of sorts, wandering the state documenting the remains of a civilization lost,” says a Sage Magazine review. “It’s a story that most of us are already familiar with, but one Grace tells with wistful sobriety.”

The Sidewalk Film Festival website calls “Eating Alabama” “enlightening, introspective and entertaining … a visual history of what rural life is like early in the 21st century… and that’s no small accomplishment.”

“Eating Alabama” has the support of the Independent Television Service and Alabama Public Television, with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

For more information about the film, visit www.eatingalabama.com.

The Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers is a program of South Arts. Southern Circuit screenings are funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

South Arts, a nonprofit regional arts organization, was founded in 1975 to build on the South’s unique heritage and enhance the public value of the arts. South Arts’ work responds to the arts environment and cultural trends with a regional perspective. South Arts offers an annual portfolio of activities designed to address the role of the arts in impacting the issues important to our region and to link the South with the nation and the world through the arts.

For more information, visit www.southarts.org.

To find out more about the ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts or the film series, call (423) 439-8587 or visit www.etsu.edu/cas/arts. “Like” ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts on Facebook and follow it on Twitter at TheArtsAtETSU.

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