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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » A Place at the Table (Blu-ray)
A Place at the Table (Blu-ray)
Magnolia Home Entertainment // PG // June 25, 2013 // Region A
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted July 8, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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A Place at the Table Blu-ray Review


Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution

A Place at the Table is a documentary of great importance. In fact, I am certain that this is one of the most important documentaries that I have ever seen. It's one that should be required viewing for all Americans to see. It deals with an issue that is often overlooked and misunderstood by a large percentage of the United State's population: Hunger pains. It is an issue which is far more complex than a lot of people consider, but it is also an issue which can find a solution. Hunger doesn't have to exist in this nation in the way in which it does. And that notion is an important idea essential to A Place at the Table.

This documentary is all about showing Americans some real people who have lived (or still currently live) with issues of hunger. It's goal is to inform Americans about the issue of our nation's hunger problems, while making the issue one that isn't just based on statistics and surveys. The film explores the way hunger affects a variety of different families, different people, and the way in which it affects us all throughout our communities and our shared commonalities : because any Americans dealing with hunger issues means that we have something to fix in our nation to try and serve those who are in need in a better way.

Several different stories are told throughout the course of A Place at the Table; all relate to the shared issue of hunger and how it can affect anyone. Amongst the stories explored throughout the documentary, there is a story that focuses upon a struggling mother named Barbie who demonstrates courage while dealing with her difficulty in  having enough food to feed her children (let alone herself). Another story focuses on a lone police-officer in a small town community who isn't earning enough wages to feed his entire family, despite the fact he's actually the lone person there to protect others in that community. One story focuses on a younger girl and her struggles in school because of her hunger pangs, and how she tries to overcome them with the help of her teacher's church-going community outreach, whereby packages of food items are delivered to members of her community in need. These are all important stories of real Americans, real people who are facing an issue that shouldn't be forgotten and ignored.

This documentary interviews so many people connected to the issue: from those dealing with a hunger issue directly themselves to those who are able to fight for the less fortunate. With Jeff Bridges, Top Chef cook Tom Colicchio, and many other professionals working to help fight a nation filled with hunger pangs and food insecurity, this documentary presents the information necessary to make more individuals interested in finding ways to help with the issue of hunger.

Hunger in America is different from how hunger is in a lot of countries around the world. It isn't necessarily represented through children who have nothing but skin-and-bone on their bodies. But it's something that exists: it's a real issue and is an important issue to discuss and work to change. Hunger isn't necessarily visible on the outside. Yet the pangs of hunger can be there. Shortage of food isn't the issue facing our country. Nourishment is one of the biggest issues facing our nation, as is accessibility and the issues of poverty that are directly connected to hunger.

 

As a nation, we rely so much upon processed foods to feed ourselves that the good food available to help children become adults and adults stay healthier is handled in such a way that a piece of fruit can cost more than getting a fast-food meal, like a burger and fries or any number of other less healthy meals. This creates more problems for children than it resolves. Hunger doesn't go away with more unhealthy foods and obesity and other health problems become attached to the real issue of hunger that is facing many children and which will affect lives as children grow to become adults. It's hurting out nation. This is an issue that affects everyone. And the fact that a issue such as this is affecting so many of our children (one in two children will have been on a food program at some point in their lives) is disappointing, but we must remember that it is an issue that suggests the need for government change to implement more stability in providing a stability in food security for children and adults in need. This issue is driven home particularly effectively when the documentary explores a food bill implemented to help raise funds for the school lunches provided to children, but which ultimately took away from the resources given towards the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps) that helps the same children get by at home as the meals at school help them get through a day at school.

Jeff Bridges made one of the best points in the film when he spoke about the issue as being a American issue universal to us all -- he poses the question of whether or not hunger issues is something we want to be a part of our nation; which one would hope wouldn't be answered affirmatively. He suggests that fighting hunger issues is an issue of patriotism. Why do our congress representatives seem to care so little about these issues? In a scene in the film, an important congress meeting is held to discuss hunger issues and reform. Almost no one is actually at the meeting held by those with the most power and ability to help those facing significant need the most. We have the food in this country to feed everyone who faces a problem with food insecurity. Is the issue really about food? Or is it about poverty and a remaining belief some in our nation hold that those who are less fortunate are deserving somehow of being impoverished? These are some of the serious questions raised by the documentary.

A Place at the Table is a call to Americans to remember that we are all deserving of a meal and a place at the table. No children should go hungry from food insecurity and adults shouldn't face a world where they can work hard and not have enough income to qualify for benefits or work too many hours to qualify for benefits when their earnings are too little for supporting their families. The film leaves an important impact behind and does so with its insightful storytelling. When a lone police officer in a community can't even get his own family by without supplemental help from a food pantry or when a waitress who spends her entire day serving food to people (who often waste so much food) can't afford to bring home enough money to support her children eating enough nourishing foods we know we have a nation that needs something to become fixed.

This is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen about the issue. Seek it out. Share it. I hope that this is the kind of documentary that will find real traction and be shown to groups: churches, schools, and government officials. We need more awareness of the issue and the documentary created from producers and directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush is something that makes a significant step in the right direction.


The Blu-ray:


Video:

A Place at the Table arrives on Blu-ray with an impressive 1.78:1 widescreen transfer that is presented with an AVC encoded 1080p High Definition presentation. The image is generally clean, sharp, and vibrant with good color reproduction and depth. Sometimes the image isn't entirely sharp but for the most part this is a surprisingly strong documentary film presentation.

Audio:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is better sounding than one might initially expect for it to be. Part of this is probably the fact that the documentary utilizes beautiful score music from the acclaimed musicians T Bone Burnett and The Civil Wars. The songs sound splendid. While nothing about the film requires too much in the way of surround usage, there is some added dimensionality to the presentation with regards to ambiance. Dialogue is crystal clear, which remains the most important and essential element for a documentary film's sound presentation.

Subtitles are available in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing) and Spanish.


Additional Screenshots:

Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution



Extras:

Audio Commentary with directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush and executive producer Tom Colicchio.

Deleted Scenes, which includes both completely removed scenes and some extended footage of moments featured in the documentary.

Cast and Crew Interviews - Approximately 50 minutes of additional comments from some of the cast and crew who worked to help make A Place at the Table possible.

Deleted Interviews - Some additional interview footage that was filmed but not utilized in the final cut of the film.

ASX TV: A Look at A Place at the Table - A short promotional piece that is essentially a brief trailer to help promote and raise awareness of the film.

A Good Day - This is a remarkably impressive and well made animated ad campaign piece that is about raising hunger awareness in regards to food programs in schools and about how hunger affects children. It is probably one of the absolute best ad-campaign shorts that I have ever seen.

The Full Effect: Plum Organics Mission to Nourish Children Across America - This feature is essentially a mini-documentary about the Plum business effort to create a drink mix that helps nourish children, and their partnership and inspiration received from discovering A Place at the Table.

Theatrical Trailer - The official trailer promoting A Place at the Table.

 

Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution

Final Thoughts:

A Place at the Table is truly indispensable as a documentary. It should ultimately help to raise more awareness of the issues of hunger facing our nation, and our nation's people. This is one important documentary that I hope gains a lot more traction going forward and that can make many more Americans be aware of the issue. Hunger isn't something that any of us should be okay with existing in our nation, and one can hope that documentaries like this can help with leading our nation towards significant change. Hunger insecurity doesn't have to stay around: food insecurity can be overcome. 

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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