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Review

Farmworkers ill served by 'Food Chains'

Farmworkers are ill served by the documentary 'Food Chains' as big names hijack their story

Using Florida farmworkers' six-day hunger strike as its jumping-off point, the advocacy documentary "Food Chains" launches its case for how supermarkets, fast-food restaurants and other food services indirectly exploit laborers.

The members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are tomato pickers in Florida who work from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., each person picking about 4,000 pounds of tomatoes for $40 a day, making $10,500 to $13,000 a year. About 15 of the workers languish in a trailer together because other housing is unaffordable.

The film argues that large grocery chains such as Kroger, Safeway and Publix each record billions in revenue and dictate produce prices nationwide. The Immokalee coalition says that if Publix would pay an additional cent per pound, its members could earn a living wage.

The hunger strike — held outside Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Fla., in 2012 — ultimately proves fruitless. It should be just an anecdote here, not the anchor of the story. But because of the narrative's need for closure, the film bizarrely recasts the lost battle as something uplifting.

Director Sanjay Rawal also allows the likes of Eva Longoria (an executive producer of the film, as is "Fast Food Nation" author Eric Schlosser) and members of the Kennedy dynasty to hijack the farmworkers' story. It's a reductive strategy that ultimately insults viewers' intelligence.

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"Food Chains"

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena. Also on VOD.

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