BALTIMORE — Among the more than 80 short films screened during the 2019 Maryland Film Festival this weekend in Baltimore, five that showcased Baltimore themes were grouped together for a block called “Balti-shorts.”
One of those films, a short documentary called “Deserted,” focuses on a familiar refrain of urban policy discussions – food deserts. The film follows a Harlem Park resident as he discusses his treks to get food from a grocery store, or the limited options provided by neighborhood corner stores, and how those influence dietary options and decisions that can have life-long consequences for city residents.
The film’s screening at the festival marks its world premiere. Its creator, Emily Stubb, grew up in Baltimore and Baltimore County. She attended high school at George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, studying visual arts. There she began to find her talent of telling stories through art. At Ithaca College she honed in on that passion and skill in movie making.
“‘Deserted’ was my first solo film, which I directed and produced as part of my thesis for my dual degrees in Documentary Filmmaking and Environmental Studies,” Stubb said. After graduating she began working on distributing the film, then headed to Los Angeles in June to begin work on her next project, a feature-length exploration of food insecurity. “With a focus on social justice, my films aim to provide a renewed understanding of these larger issues that impact our society and generate a broader conversation…..hopefully contributing to the change that we hope to see happen.”
The film is both art and activism, as Stubb helps to show the plight of many with limited, mostly unhealthy food choices in the city. The hope is the film can raise awareness of these resource issues and the people trying to combat them.
One important “character” in the film becomes a newly formed grocery store that opened in the face of the industry’s general recalcitrance to put stores in lower-income communities. The Salvation Army opened a new store called Doing the Most Good Foods, or DMG Foods, at 400 E. 29th Street , near the corner of Greenmount Avenue. The store looks like your standard grocery store, if not a more upscale food retailer, but it subtly caters to lower-income clients with things like special deals that maximize food purchases made with SNAP benefits, and clearly displaying fresh produce.
Also highlighted in the film are interviews with young children in the neighborhood. Their voices provide telling quotes about their relationships with food, and how many seem aware their consumption is not as healthy as it should be, but they lack the opportunity to change that.
“In the world’s wealthiest country, access to healthy, nutritious food should be a basic human right, one shared by all. That’s the overarching theme of this film,” Stubb said. “I felt it important to see this issue from the perspective of children. What we do today will impact their future. So we must change this system for their sake.”
The film premiered Thursday night at the Parkway Theatre. It will be shown again at the second screening of the "Balti-shorts" program Saturday, at 4:30 p.m., at the Maryland Institute College of Art's Falvey Hall.