By Bilal Lakhani
Isabel Sadurni was on a mission. She had come early to a non-descript room in Bushwick, to personally ensure that everything was in order for the screening of “What’s organic about organic?” a documentary exposé on organic food.
Sadurni, an award winning independent filmmaker herself, was hosting the screening inside a multi-purpose art space tucked behind a busy Bushwick bar called Brooklyn Fireproof.
“We gather people around food but we also raise political awareness and talk about social justice,” said Sadurni, who is a member of the Bushwick food co-op which offers organic, locally made produce to the Bushwick community.
“Oh my God, I sound like a hippie,” she said laughing, interrupting her description of the event. “We’re not hippies. We’re humanists, who realize that our actions affect others.”
Minutes before the screening was to start, a group of people gathered next to an organic popcorn stall at the front end of the room. Others were checking out organic vegetables on sale at the other end of the room. Brooklyn residents made up most of the largely young white audience with only a handful of people showing up from Queens and Manhattan.
When it was time for the screening to begin, Sadurni implored the 40 members of the audience to settle down in her animated but low-pitched voice. She invited Ben Flammer, an urban roof top farmer, to say a few words before the screening. She introduced him as the man who started the “world’s largest roof top farm.”
“We grew 12,000 pounds of vegetables on a roof top in Queens” said Flammer as the audience collectively oohed in appreciation. “When wet, the soil on our farm weighs a million pounds.”
The documentary began by tracing the historical evolution of the organic food movement in America and ran for an hour. The audience watched in silence broken only momentarily with laughter at the close up shot of a cow’s nostril.
As the lights came on after the screening, Sadurni moved to front of the room and invited Flammer and two other urban farmers to take questions from the audience about organic food and urban farming.
A member of the audience asked Flammer if they could donate home grown compost to his farm. “Yes, we are planning to host a compost drop off and we’ll advertise it prominently on our website,” replied Flammer.
At the end of the question and answer session, Sadurni encouraged people to become members of the Bushwick food co-op and stayed back to chat with the crowd as they filed out of the room one by one.
“We are a network of people” Sadurni said. “Just like Facebook… or like the people in Egypt who managed to stage a revolution.”
“There was too much idealism in the 60’s,” she continued. “The hippies were happy to get lost in love. But we’re a lot more hands on. We’re practical about things.”