Film Review: Bugs
Directed by Andreas Johnsen
Opening with a culinary feast involving bowls of soldier fly larvae, locust tabbouleh, and dung beetle stew, Andreas Johnsen’s fascinating documentary follows the efforts of chef Ben Reade and researcher Josh Evans of the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen as they travel the world exploring the viability of insects as the food source of the future. As the film explains, with the world’s population set to increase to 9 billion by 2050, food production has to increase about 70%. Much of the world already eats insects. Could bugs become scalable as a cheap, sustainable new source of protein?
It could have been easy for a film like this to become just a one-note exercise, shocking us with the spectacle of what these researchers chow down on as they travel the globe. And, to be fair, they do eat quite a number of amazing and terrifying-looking things—from grilled termite queens (“God’s natural sausage”) to maggot-infested stinky cheese (which apparently stinks even worse when it’s infested with maggots, go figure). But they actually do make a lot of this stuff look tasty. And as they prepare elaborate dishes using these creatures, the point hits home: Most of our revulsion in the West toward eating insects has more to do with cultural norms than anything else. (At one point, a comparison is made to sushi; just several decades ago, many people outside Japan found the idea of eating raw fish disgusting.)
The film raises tantalizing questions: While bugs are in plentiful supply now, how would they scale as a reliable and sustainable food source for masses all around the world? Would they just become commodified and industrialized like everything else? And how would the rural Third World communities where these creatures are to be found be affected by such developments? While it may not provide many answers, the film does offer plenty of food for thought to go with its entertaining journey through the amazingly diverse world of edible bugs.