Film Review: BUGS (directed by Andreas Johnsen / World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on April 21, 2016

in Film


By 2050 the world’s population will reach 9 billion people and food production will need to increase by 70% to feed them, we are informed by titles at the beginning of Andreas Johnsen’s breezy info-documentary Bugs. One plentiful and underexploited food source is insects. Will these be the key to our survival? That is the question around which Mr. Johnsen’s 75-minute video hovers, following Nordic Food Labs’ head chef Ben Reade and lead researcher Josh Evans as they travel the world in search of bugs to eat and ways to cook them.

Dinner with insects from BUGS. Photographer: Andreas Johnsen

African termites, Mexican ants, Australian grubs, Japanese wasps, Italian maggots, crickets, locusts, beetles, whether grilled or sautéed, baked in ashes or ground into paste, eaten raw or alive, they are all on the menu. The two travellers partake of these cultural staples and seem genuinely pleased with the taste, which is Ben’s first concern: can these objectionable creatures be delicious? The duo’s second concern is, are these foods sustainable? By which they mean, can insects be harvested on a large scale without disrupting or destroying the communities and cultures they nourish? The film doesn’t provide a definitive answer. But with Nestle and other giants eyeing the bug game with interest, for the third-world bug-consuming villager a future in which bugs replace chicken may be a double edged sword.

Josh Evans, Roberto Flore, Ben Reade and Andreas Johnsen in BUGS. Photo by Andreas Johnsen.

Admirably, Mr. Johnsen doesn’t sensationalize the insect eating sessions the way certain exotic-food shows tend to do, nor does he fetishize the culinary aspects of his film. He follows characters who are sufficiently engaging to spend time with, and gives us a simple, coherent, glimpse of a relatively obscure issue which may very well become enormously important over the next decades. And while I wouldn’t make the effort or pay the admission to see Bugs at a theater—there’s no reason to see it on a big screen—if I turned on, say, the Sundance Channel on a Sunday afternoon and found it playing, I’d probably watch it.

Ben Reade holding two palm weevil larvae in BUGS. Photographer: Andreas Johnsen

photos by Andreas Johnsen © Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Rosforth and Danish Documentary presentation
Denmark / In English | 2016 | Color | 75 min.
World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival
for screening times, visit Tribeca

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