Hot Docs 2022: ‘We Feed People’ Is the Inspiring Story of José Andrés and World Central Kitchen

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We Feed People - But Why Tho

Whether it’s a hurricane, an earthquake, the eruption of a volcano, war, or any other humanitarian or climate crisis, World Central Kitchen always works hard to show up, serve meals, and feed people who need it. And spearheading this wonderful nonprofit organization is founder José Andrés, a Spaniard cook whose charisma is almost as big as his passion and resilience for feeding people. He’s also the main subject of Ron Howard’s latest documentary We Feed People.

Andrés arrived in the United States in the early ‘90s and, aided by his personality, hard-working ethic, and tenacity, he rose through the ranks and made a name for himself. Eventually, he opened his own restaurants, wrote cookbooks, and became a celebrity chef. But he didn’t just gorge on fame and money, instead, he created the World Central Kitchen in 2010 as a response to the devastating Haiti earthquake of that year. Seven years later, he kicked the project into high gear to feed Puerto Rican victims after Hurricane Maria. Fast forward to 2022, and World Central Kitchen is still going strong.

This is a Ron Howard film, so don’t expect any risks being taken or inventive use of the documentary form. We Feed People is straightforward in its form but has an effective execution. Even though there’s not any flashy nonfiction filmmaking going on, Howard makes sure to use the right amount of talking heads and powerful footage to inspire audiences, explain the motivation of his subject, and show the positive effects of WCK.

By following the cook and his feeding efforts through the aforementioned disasters in Haití and Puerto Rico, as well as the aftermaths of the 2018 eruption of the Fuego volcano in Guatemala and the 2019 Dorian hurricane in the Bahamas, Howard paints a convincing picture of José Andrés. His labor is impressive. The man travels around the world, strategizes, cooks, and has a considerable presence on social media (his family literally opened a Twitter account because it was easier to track him down through his posts). He’s a sea of charisma whose love for cooking is only equaled by his will to help people; through interviews, information about the relationship with his parents, and footage of him being in action, We Feed People thoroughly convinces you that WCK is in the right hands.

What makes José Andrés a terrific subject is not only his magnetic presence and work ethic but his awareness of privilege too. He isn’t trying to be a White savior and get richer by doing so. He understands that charity is not about yourself: he listens and tries to work hand in hand with the people he’s trying to help and he attempts to establish systems in the countries he visits to help local communities to sustain themselves once WCK is gone. Andrés talks a little bit about all of this, but actions are louder than words and the footage on display supports his “food equals community” ideals. However, the film would’ve benefitted from delving deeper into these plans and how exactly WCK works to help locals achieve this long-term stability. 

Moreover, We Feed People hints at ideas of sustainability and the importance of addressing how the climate crisis is directly affecting World Central Kitchen’s operations, but Ron Howard never tackles these ideas head-on. And given how crucial it is for such a large organization to minimize its environmental footprint, this is a large missed opportunity. We know Andrés has been working on these issues through efforts to reduce single-use plastic and the creation of a $1 Billion Climate Fund, so there’s no excuse for Howard to leave this information out. Now is definitely not the time to set environmentalism aside.

We Feed People doesn’t ask enough questions and, at times, can be quite superficial. However, you learn enough from it to be inspired by José Andrés and his passionate humanitarian mission. It’s a portrait of empathy that shows how hard work and resilience can truly make a difference.

We Feed People had its international premiere at Hot Docs 2022.


We Feed People
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

We Feed People doesn’t ask enough questions and, at times, can be quite superficial. However, you learn enough from it to be inspired by José Andrés and his passionate humanitarian mission. It’s a portrait of empathy that shows how hard work and resilience can truly make a difference.