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Chuck Jaffee: ‘An Acquired Taste’ worth a bite

A scene from "An Acquired Taste," one of more than 100 films to screen at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Jan. 12-16 in Nevada County.
Submitted photo |

OK, suburban kid, go out and get some meat. No, no, I don’t mean go to the supermarket. Chop off a chicken’s head. Shoot a wild bird, shoot a squirrel. Pluck and gut and cook animals to eat. You suburban parents, let your 13-year-old go off and shoot a wild boar and bring meals home to family.

In the film “An Acquired Taste,” this all happens across more than a year’s time, under caring supervision – caring about the kids and the animals and the nature-connected processes. Granted there’s some yuppie and school-ish feel to this documentary story but still genuine as it follows three young teens through impressive hands-on education.

Nick is the relatively matter-of-fact one. Alex has big anxieties to overcome. Ashlie is the most interesting one, all shy and unconfident yet somehow the most ready and able to travel this rite of passage.

The parents worry about accidents or psychic injury, or maybe their innocent child might get all into the dominance, the love of killing. The parents very clearly demonstrate loving relationships with their kids.

Should people be meat-eaters? “An Acquired Taste” doesn’t look at that issue particularly. Should we be more connected to where the meat comes from? It’s well worth the documentary time to walk this walk, not the least of which that this film has a character richness you don’t typically associate with documentaries. Bon Appétit.

‘The Islands and the Whales’

Do you know where the Faroe Islands are? Hint: They’re not the Farallon Islands, a couple dozen ocean miles from San Francisco.

A self-governing territory of Denmark, the Faroe Islands peak above the Atlantic Ocean closer to Iceland and Scotland, though hundreds of miles from them as well. The documentary “The Islands and the Whales” displays an isolated culture and beauty that suggests why tourism is a modest second-largest economic pillar of these land forms.

No surprise, the economic mainstay is fishing. Its most troubling visibility is its perennial roundup and killing of pilot whales. The film doesn’t particularly examine how significantly commercial whaling figures into its subsistence tradition, however it does document the Sea Shepherd’s active presence (A spinoff from Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd takes commerce in ocean mammals very seriously, aggressively jabbing at violators such as Japan and Norway.)

What makes “The Islands and the Whales” a richly layered experience of this windy, rainy, gray archipelago is the personal feel for the 50,000 people that call the Faroe Islands home. It’s about a culture that routinely eats whale meat and whale blubber (and wild birds), a culture that does so while acknowledging that this diet delivers threatening levels of mercury into their families’ body tissue. While pollution and modernity increasingly encroaches upon them, they still harken back to mythic Huldufolk that supposedly have retreated to the hills.

See the fresh topicality and a western flavor of exotic tone in “The Islands and the Whales.”

Chuck Jaffee of Grass Valley likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at http://www.startlets.com.

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