Every so often you meet someone who not only has it all together, but is on the brink of doing something really exciting with it all. Rasha is one of those amazing people.
Looking over her impressive (and yet short) career she has successfully managed to nurture two passions – health and photography – and is now at the critical point in her life where she is able to marry the two. The Growing Food Project is an ambitious and inspiring to be documentary that profiles the local food movement right now in Melbourne, with a focus on the inner north. After months of development and filming, Rasha and her crew are ready to enter the production phase to turn these masses of information into a palatable entertaining story. So before this film is properly launched I thought it best to introduce Rasha to all of you…
Tell us a bit about your background – where did you grow up, what did you study, and what path led you to what you are doing now?
Growing up in a Palestinian family meant that food, cooking & eating were a big part of my childhood. We lived in a lot of places, but I suppose Amman (Jordan) and Melbourne are where I’ve spent a lot of time. My dad was a keen gardener and our veggie patch felt like an extension of our kitchen. I grew up watching my parents cook delicious Middle Eastern feasts that always taste, smell and feel like home.
I went to university here in Melbourne and studied Nutrition then moved to London for a little while, where I immersed myself in my other passion, photography. I then found myself back in Melbourne and back at university doing a Master of Public Health, working as a researcher & associate lecturer and looking for answers to the rest of my food questions. About 3 years ago I started working in health promotion at a community health service coordinating food security initiatives.
I’ve always been interested in photography, sociology & food. I guess the combination of all three have led me to what I’m doing now.
Throughout your career you have maintained two strong interests – food and nutrition, and photography. Finally you have merged these two passions in your current project – The Growing Food Project. What is the inspiration for this project?
The community I currently live & work in has been my inspiration for the Growing Food Project. The idea for this film was born given the fairly low profile of community food projects, it’s important to tell the stories of innovative and empowered individuals, to share their vision and inspiration with the wider community. We all know the problems by now… we live in a broken food system! But if we continue to focus on the problems, we might continue putting things in ‘the too hard basket’. This short film aims to highlight some practical solutions from grass root initiatives that reconnect us with food in sustainable ways.
The Growing Food Project is a collaboration between yourself and others who bring together a varied set of skills to deliver this documentary. How did this project come about? How did you find others to share your dream with you?
I was chatting to a couple of friends about documenting some of the stories from the gardens & food projects I’m involved in… and they encouraged me to stop talking about it & get on with it. So I did… with their help of course! I put a call out to friends & colleagues and gained some interest in this film. And there are a couple of your friendly folk from the Inevedible Garden who put their hands up (thanks for getting us in touch!). Everyone involved has been super generous with their time and very passionate about food & sustainability. With no funding at all, we were strapping cameras to our backs & riding to various foods swaps, community gardens & parks on sunny days to meet with food activists, asking a few questions & learning about what they’re doing.
What editorial route have you taken in the journey to create a documentary? (from commissioning, editing, interview subjects and design). Had you had any previous exposure to the ongoings of documentary making before this? What have you learnt so far?
My approach to this filmmaking process has been very exploratory. Initially this project was going to be a photo essay. But I felt that there needed to be more to it than still images and a few words. I’m certainly no filmmaker, but I wanted to share people’s voices. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative process of filmmaking and bouncing ideas with others involved & learning from them. I’m blessed with great artists as friends who’ve made this journey very exciting! My exposure to filmmaking started when I lived in London, my housemate (who’s one of my dearest friends) is an amazing filmmaker. Having enjoyed taking photographs, embarking on a film project seemed like an interesting space to work in.
For the Growing Food Project, the research was there, access to interview subjects was there, the stories already existed… it was a matter of finding an overarching narrative that captured food as common language between each of the elements, each local food project. Trying to stick to making a 20 minute film has been a challenge. There’s certainly a lot of material in there but for the purposes of this film, it’s only a broad-brush stroke of what’s really happening locally.
Personally I find photographing or filming out in nature very grounding. I want to take viewers on a journey that is reminiscent of our connection to nature… especially when we live in the city & tend to be quite disconnected. Food is the most intimate part of our lives and the way we interact with it, from growing, harvesting, cooking, eating and sharing is a complete sensory experience. A lot of people are missing out on this experience and we need to go back to basics, for our health, environment & society as a whole.
As my first time being this involved in filmmaking, I’ve learnt so much. I tend to think about the subject under my ‘researcher hat’ and see it through my camera lens, but I’m certainly learning how to be more of a storyteller. The biggest challenge for me has been that I don’t know much about film post-production, but I’ve called on my contacts to help. And now we are at a point where we have a lot of footage that needs to be edited and pieced together to bring this film to life. Hence the Pozible campaign to raise money & get this film done.
Through this research what change (if any) are you hoping to bring about? What are your hopes and dreams for this project?
The film is an attempt to promote health and local food systems by creating a discourse that empowers communities and shares local knowledge & local examples. I want to invite viewers to contemplate the social, environmental, economic and political benefits of supporting local food systems and the fair food movement more generally. We are constantly hearing about the problems in the current system, but as I mentioned earlier, I think we’ll continue to put things in the ‘too hard’ basket. I want to share some of the solutions that communities are initiating, sharing and learning from each other. I’ve certainly learnt so much from the people around me.
Local Food Questions
+ Most inspiring food activist?
Glenda Lindsay (Fitzroy) & Patrick Jones (Daylesford)
+ Most inspiring public garden?
+ Most inspiring food project?
PepperTree Place in Coburg