PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

The Pleasures of Collecting and... Grafting: 'The Fruit Hunters'

The reason he collects fruit, Richard Campbell elucidates, is not only because he seeks variety and pleasure in tasting, but also because he sees the risks of industrial farming and monoculture.


The Fruit Hunters

Director: Yung Chang
Cast: Bill Pullman, Ken Love, Richard Campbell, Noris Ledesma, Juan Fernando Aguilar Moran, Isabella Dalla Ragione, Yung Chang (narrator)
Rated: NR
Studio: Eye Steel Films, Cinedigm
Year: 2012
US date: 2013-05-14 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer

"I'm blessed to be able to work on what I really love," smiles Richard Campbell. "I don't like lychees, for instance. Lychees are really cold, they don't respond, they don't do what I want them to do. But a mango," he goes on, "is always a negotiation. It's a love story, like a relationship. You just don't go in there and demand they do something. You have to negotiate."

Yes, you may be nodding, Richard Campbell is blessed. How could he do anything else but what he does, which is to say, tropical fruit curating? As he goes on to explain in The Fruit Hunters, he's come by his interest -- his obsession and his devotion -- as so many young men do, through instruction and modeling by his father. "It's all about having set objectives," his father told him, "It wasn't enough to go out and collect something without a reason." As Campbell takes this edict to heart, he travels the world with his partner Noris Ledesma, in pursuit of fruit.

The film follows them to Bali, where they seek the wani, a white mango. As Richard climbs a tree, his bare feet clutching the trunk as he shimmies his way up, hoping to cut down the bud wood they'll be able to use to graft onto trees back home. For 20 years, he says, he and Noris have been trying to make this graft stick, to grow the white mango somewhere other than this tropical rain forest, and for 20 years they have failed. Still, they persist. "We can only get better," he smiles.

The reason he collects fruit, Campbell elucidates, is not only because he seeks variety and pleasure in tasting, but also because he sees the risks of industrial farming and monoculture, of engineering food as a means to profits. The camera pans slowly over supermarket bins full to bursting with bright red, yellow, and green fruits as director Yung Chang narrates, "You can buy the exact same fruit anywhere in the world." If such displays suggest abundance and commercial brilliance, the film argues otherwise, that the returns are diminishing, that sameness is not more, but less. Holding up bananas to the camera as he speaks, Juan Fernando Aguilar Moran points out that breeding a single crop invites trouble: "Monoculture a dangerous practice in agriculture."

And so Yung Chang's film celebrates diversity, in a particular, precise, and provocative way. Much like his previous films, Up the Yangtze and China Heavyweight, this one offers careful pans and close images, detailed compositions and gliding overviews. His interview subjects offer expertise but also something else they describe as necessary for their work, passion. If Campbell's enthusiasm might seem insular, his understanding specific, he sees ever broader possibilities, the reasons his father insisted he appreciate and be able to articulate.

This sort of vision is shared by Bill Pullman ("I know Bill Pullman as a veteran Hollywood actor," observes Chang, "But I'm not sure that acting is his main passion"). He appears in various fruit hunting modes, at an auction, in California orchards, riding around Kona, Hawaii with former AP photographer, now fulltime fruit hunter Ken Love: in each case, Pullman's face provides the film with something like its perfective correlative. Biting into one fruit after another, he's seized by a sensual bliss, his eyes closing, his sighs infectious. As Pullman's effort to organize his community in the Hollywood Hills to cultivate an orchard forms a second storyline, parallel to Campbell's, he performs the pleasures of sampling starfruits, identifying microclimates, and listening to growers. "You're like the addict who says, 'I want to eat, I want to eat,'" he says. "By the time he's done with the spiel, you feel like you're the luckiest person."

It's this feeling that fruit hunters pursue and so want to share. For it's the community they find with one another and with casual, even unsuspecting, seekers, suburban shoppers or villagers at market. For the fruit hunters, the taste is a point of departure, not the end. The idea is to cultivate, to create potentials, to communicate. Just so, Moran describes the investment of pollination. "It's important to pollinate with enough love," he explains, "like when you make love with your wife or your girlfriend. There has to be romance, there has to be atmosphere, before the sexual act, because his allows the woman to be receptive." The conventional, if fervent, metaphor, underscores what he calls the "faith" necessary for such adventures. To bring fruits and humans together, it can be a way to save both.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.