Oak Cliff resident Daniel Nanasi had no idea about the food access issues in his own city, but a meetup group changed his perception forever.
Attending the Food Desert Solutions gatherings, Nanasi learned some sobering facts about food deserts just miles from his home and that Dallas has the highest child poverty rate among big cities — in the nation.
He told his business partner, Beau Ethridge, about what he learned and of his calling to get involved.
The two have worked together for more than 12 years in the film industry and currently run the 3-year-old Think Branded Media out of the Dallas coworking space, WELD.
“The goal is to not only create awareness, but to create impact.”
From Fortune 500 companies to major liquor and food companies, their video production company has taken on clients from across the spectrum.
In fall 2015, Nanasi and Ethridge decided to put their storytelling skills to work on a different kind of project.
Food deserts in Dallas.
On Tuesday, the filmmakers debuted the first clips from their documentary, Where’s the Food?!, as part of EARTHxFilm, Dallas’ first environmentally-focused film festival.
The curated festival is running concurrently with this week’s Earth Day Texas, the world’s largest eco-conference and exhibition. Other Dallas filmmakers involved include David Lowery, Jeremy McKane, King Hollis, and video production company M3 Films. Local youth also were called upon to create short environmental films.
“They’re all films that could change the world,” said Michael Cain, EARTHxFilm president. “The goal is to not only create awareness, but to create impact.”
‘NOT OUR STORY’
Where’s The Food?!, which is scheduled to wrap up production by the end of 2017, will educate people about food insecurity within the city of Dallas, but more importantly highlight the numerous organizations that are already doing their part to alleviate the problem.
“We don’t want to be another doomsday documentary on Netflix,” Ethridge told the crowd gathered for the screening and panel at the Nasher Sculpture Center Tuesday. “We are really taking an approach to consciously focus on those that are trying really hard to do sustainable, solution-driven change.”
During the event, Nanasi and Ethridge brought along leaders from some of those groups such as Patrick Wright of Bonton Farms, Danaë Bibiana Gutiérrez Martínez, founder of Harvest Project, and Taylor Toynes, community impact specialist with The Commit! Partnership and founder of the nonprofit, For Oak Cliff.
“We don’t want to be another doomsday documentary on Netflix.”
“This is something that needs to change in the morning. People are hungry tonight,” Toynes said of food accessibility in Oak Cliff’s 10th Street Historic District.
His nonprofit For Oak Cliff grew out of a back-to-school festival, but more recently has taken on a community garden project in the east Oak Cliff neighborhood.
Earlier this year, his efforts received national attention when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg attended Toynes’ MLK Day of Service event to clear off a property for the garden.
Ethridge said they’ve worked with close to a dozen area organizations, some of which they met through the Food Desert Solutions meetup. Conversations have started with dozens more groups.
He said work on the documentary is very much a “community collaborative scenario.”
“Yes, we have access to resources and a skillset to tell the story, but it’s not our story. We’re simply catalysts or a tool to be used to get this out there to the masses,” Ethridge said.
‘ANOTHER SPOKE IN THE SOLUTIONS’
Where’s The Food?! is meant to be more than just a documentary.
Nanasi and Ethridge aren’t planning to start their own nonprofit, but they hope their work can facilitate social impact.
So far, the production has acted as a connector for many people and organizations in the area.
Nanasi and Ethridge introduced Toynes from For Oak Cliff with Bonton Farms’ Wright. Now, Toynes is seeing what he can learn from the urban farm’s model to apply in his own community garden endeavor.
Toynes also is working with Harvest Project, which brings produce to give out on the land where his future garden will be.
“We’re trying to be another spoke in the solutions to this. We really believe in the power of media and the power of storytelling.”
Nanasi would like to see even more relationships form and possibly work with others to build a web tool to grow the network further.
Current distribution plans for the documentary call for submissions to film festivals and streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Video.
They also want to allow public access options through libraries and possibly public school channels since some people might not have access to internet or streaming accounts.
Nanasi and Ethridge plan to put revenue made from the film back into the nonprofits featured in it. And, finally, they want to mentor young kids, especially those living in areas plagued by food insecurity, to tell their own stories.
“We’re trying to be another spoke in the solutions to this. We really believe in the power of media and the power of storytelling,” Nanasi said.
Here’s a list of films with Dallas ties in the EARTHxFilm festival. All screenings take place at various venues within Fair Park.
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Fair Park Bandshell
What: Dallas director David Lowery’s 2016 fantasy film about an orphaned boy and his dragon friend will be screened outdoors.
Ridge to Reef
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: African American Museum Theater
What: The series of short documentary-style films explores oceans and the earth. Dallas artist and director Jeremy McKane will be in attendance to discuss the impact of climate change in the South Pacific.
Bigger than Water
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Music Hall at Fair Park
What: The documentary feature still in production explores the Flint Water Crisis through those directly impacted. The film is an all Dallas collaboration between Earth Day Texas, M3 Films, King Hollis, and Michael Cain.
Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday and 11:45 a.m. Sunday
Where: Saturday at Hall of State Theater and Sunday at Women’s Museum Theater
What: Laura Dunn’s documentary takes a look at farmer and writer Wendell Berry and how rural America is changing in the era of industrial agriculture.
Where’s the Food?!
When: noon Sunday
Where: Hall of State Theater
What: See clips from the upcoming documentary still in production and meet directors Beau Ethridge and Daniel Nanasi.
Here’s a teaser of Where’s the Food?!
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