Ahead of the film’s screening at next month’s Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, producer, writer and director Johanna B. Kelly has written this exclusive article for Cinema Australia about her new film, The Gateway Bug.
Written by Johanna B. Kelly – Producer, Writer and Director of The Gateway Bug.
Eating insects might just save the planet and shifting taboos mean crickets are only the Gateway Bug! The first time I heard about entomophagy in America (the technical term for eating insects), was over a lazy brunch in Santa Barbara. Old friend and marine biologist, Tyler Isaac was describing his last year of Masters research at UCSB, on the food drought set to hit humanity in the next 50 years and Earth’s overfishing problems. Rather terrifyingly, in just 55 years humans have wiped out 90% of the ocean’s top predators. Now at catastrophic levels, one study grimly predicts that if these fishing rates continue “all the world’s fisheries will have collapsed by the year 2048”. We’re now fishing wild fish to feed farmed fish that are supposed to reduce our reliance on wild fish which seems pretty illogical, so Tyler was researching replacing unsustainable feeds with insects.
Already eaten by 2 billion people on Earth, humans in the West could also start eating insects to minimise the negative environmental impact their current diets have. Animal agriculture is now responsible for 80% of fresh water use, 91% of Amazon destruction, and 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transportation industry, and projected to increase 80% by 2050. In that same time Earth’s population is predicted to reach 9 billion. Tyler quoted the UN warning from 2013, that food production must thus increase 70% by 2050 but warn that’s impossible given these environmental impacts. The infamous UN report suggests the solution could lie in entomophagy.
Insects release far less ammonia and methane than pigs and cattle, take up a lot less space and water, and pound for pound provide a lot more protein. Crickets for example need 12 times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and half as much as pigs or broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein pound for pound. They have twice the protein of beef, more calcium than milk, all 9 essential amino acids and more iron than spinach! And recent studies show a global shift to ento/plant-based diets could reduce mortality 10% while cutting up to 70% of Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2050. We were hooked – by the end of brunch, knew we had a documentary on our hands.
“And therein lies the purpose of our film – to enable free thought around how our food is made and how we define what food is.”
We began researching interview subjects, and shooting interviews, building our story in between other film jobs. As the editing and scripting progressed, we developed animations to visually describe some of the more complex arguments and found a heap of retro footage exploring the exact issues we were tackling some 50 years ago. Stylistically, we couldn’t resist including the mounting evidence that none of this is new news and began weaving together archival with interviews, music and animations to build the film you see today.
Ultimately though, it was the personalities of our characters that drove the narrative. In person these people are fascinating, complex and illuminating so we knew their stories would shine on screen. Their honest acquisition of the urgent and vital knowledge needed to help solve the crisis we’re facing so deeply inspired us that we were confident audiences would respond to them too. Armed with the knowledge our film shares – from aquaponics to eating local, self-sustaining permaculture practices to growing your own and concepts of closed cycle systems, zero food waste, respecting the moumental energy and resources taken to produce the food we so readily consume, audiences are empowered to make easy changes to their lifestyles. Spreading the word to influence their communities could even start a food revolution, activating arm chair activists to change the world, irrespective of politics, one meal at a time.
And therein lies the purpose of our film – to enable free thought around how our food is made and how we define what food is. It’s a mix of educational, social, and culinary commentary; we meet chefs, farmers, celebrities, and Washington leaders, showing the burgeoning edible insect industry from multiple angles. The film is a call to action for future generations, charging audiences to help their environment through diet and grocery shopping. We love introducing new audiences to edible insects at festival screenings and can’t wait to get Australians eating bugs at our Cinema Nova screening on July 16th as part of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival.
Details and tickets to the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival screening here.