Filmmaker Klaus Pas - Documentary on The Global Food Crisis

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With the current global food crisis, filmmaker Klaus Pas decided to reveal the truth about what was happening, and to raise awareness about the plight of a billion people that ‘go hungry at night’. With the effects of climate change, a rising population, and enormous demands on dwindling natural resources, Pas’ documentary ‘Last Supper for Malthus’ takes us on a journey around the global food chain.

Pas’ vision as a documentary filmmaker is notable as he uses characters based on 19th century political-economists (Malthus and Ricardo) to tell this story. Both actors are an integral part of the documentary and create a narrative around the current facts. ‘Last Supper for Malthus’ features interviews from leading experts in agriculture to political figures including UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon.

Find out why Pas decided to create this documentary and why he chose to mix fiction with fact to reveal the depth of the current state of our world.

Iain: Why did you decide to shoot this documentary?

Klaus: I was approached by Coast Sullenger, who invests in agriculture within the scope of a fund based in Switzerland. He wanted to know if one could make a film about agriculture. I knew nothing of agriculture and thought it would be a good idea to make a film about what the media was referring to as the global food price crisis. Aiming to look at its causes and consequences and focusing on the practical solutions that could be implemented. The idea seemed simple, but food when it comes to feeding 7 billion people becomes quite a complicated equation to solve. We wanted to understand what was going on, so that I could tell this story in both an informative and entertaining way.

The idea of reviving Malthus came almost instantly, as he was the bankable doom’s day figure, and even today. Looking at his personal history with greater care, we decided accompany him with the persona of David Ricardo, another political economist who in many ways was ahead of his time. Confronting these two political economists with today's food crisis could only become ironically funny.

Iain: How can people get together to solve the global food crisis in your view?

Klaus: As a filmmaker, you often question what you are doing. Does a film have any meaningful impact when it comes to solving a problem? And often it does not have a very direct effect, but raising awareness is the first step to any meaningful debate. And for debate to occur, one must start with education. For many of my friends and myself, agriculture and the way we feed ourselves was an obscure subject to say the least. Understanding it would be a first step in understanding our world, and in understanding ourselves. And that would be quite a lot of progress already.

On another level, more transparence, more democracy and more accountability of those we help put in power, seem to be decisive parts of the solution. But again the food equation is so complex that dozens of issues have to be addressed in a coordinated and comprehensive way before we can observe a real difference. There is hope.

Iain: Are there any documentaries that inspired you to create this form of narrative?

Klaus: Not in particular. We wanted to confront two worlds: the very informative spheres of policy makers, economists and scientists with the disillusioned opinions of two guys who had seen it all before and would be ready to defend their economical theories against them. We decided that the media would be the ideal battlefield with the action taking place in a TV studio.

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Iain: Why did you decide to mix a mini-short film within the structure of the documentary with actors?

Klaus: Coming back to the complexity of the food equation, it seemed paramount to guide the audience through its different variables. In documentary filmmaking, that usually translates into finding a good narrator.

The subject matter of our film was already quite informative, and we decided to put a human face on Hunger and another one Finance and Globalization. Paul Bandey (Malthus) and Paul Barrett (Ricardo) were the ideal cast to introduce irony and sarcasm into the action. We wanted them to allow the audience to relate to the global food crisis in a more emotional way, and also be able to look back over our history and heritage with fresh eyes.

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Iain: If you could put any actor into one of your movies, who would it be?

Klaus: I guess, someone who makes me laugh. I believe that laughter is a matter of life and death. I could think of Belgian actors Benoit Poelvoorde and François Damiens who I would wish to see in family dramas - their eyes are full of life and experience and they can easily bring hope into a tragic situation. I loved working with Paul Bandey and Paul Barrett. They form a great comical duet.

Iain: Are you working on any projects at the moment that we should hear about?

Klaus: Quite a few that are in different stages of development. With our company Turbulence Films (based in Geneva, Switzerland), we are currently developping a short sci-fi family drama. We are working on the scripts of several feature films aiming at a European co-production, and I am preparing the groundwork for a 52 minute documentary about the Presidential elections in Senegal. My partner Luc Walpoth is finishing the shooting of another documentary we are producing: a poetic look at where our world stands and might be drifting to.

Find out more : UN Global Food Crisis

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