Probably not one for the entomophobes (those who fear all things creepy and crawly), Andreas Johnsen’s Bugs is an engrossing documentary with a pertinent question: will insects be an integral part of our diets in the near future?
In 2050, the film tells us at the beginning, our planet’s population will have increased to nine billion. Due to the strain this will put on our natural resources, insects are likely to become a staple in our everyday diets.
Enter food-science researcher Josh Evans and chef Ben Reade, who scour the globe in search of edible insects. While environmental sustainability is a concern, their main focus is on taste. Most people recoil at the mere sight of bugs, so what’s the chance people will see them as a delicacy? Watch as Evans and Reade chow down on witchetty grubs in Australia, serve up termite queens with a side of mango in Kenya and squeeze delicious honey from the stingless bee in Uganda.
Johnsen does a good job of getting his audience to do a double take on what they’re confronted with. Initially, the sight of squirming bugs mashed up and served with noodles repulsed me, but the cuisines became more exotic and, while I wouldn’t say my appetite was whetted, my curiosity sure was peaked. Reade, the more charismatic of the two, offers up irresistible on-location critiques, calling one variety ‘hot, sweet, bitter, sour … we’ve got the full business going on right here,’ and another insect ‘like squeezing honey out of mud’.
Food porn aside, Bugs offers a pretty savage critique on Western lifestyles and capitalistic greed. In addition to showing that eating bugs has long been a big part of many native cultures, the film reaches a turning point when Reade and Evans attend the Wageningen ‘Insects to Feed the World’ conference, where investors are putting insects on the menu. It becomes clear to the boys that, even if insects are a more sustainable option, the market isn’t going to see it this way—insects will simply be another commodity to exploit and another resource to drain.
While the film suffers from a lack of exposition (we never learn about our two documentarians or the dietary benefits of any of the insects), Bugs is a fascinating investigation into a likely future, and it rarely forgets to keep its viewers entertained.
Tom Bensley is a freelance writer in Melbourne who reviews anything he attends, watches or reads. It’s a compulsion, really. Follow him @TomAliceBensley.