Filmmaker Spotlight: Jean-Marc Abela
Meet Jean-Marc Abela, 2014 Real Food Media Contest finalist and the filmmaker behind The Gift.
A self-taught documentary filmmaker with 15 years experience, Jean-Marc works as a freelance director/cinematographer. He has completed two independent feature documentaries. In Shugendô Now, he explores man’s relationship to nature through the experiences of Japanese tradition of Shugendô. In Diversidad, he follows a group of young adults who embark on a journey to discover their relationship to the food they eat – scroll to see the trailer below. Jean-Marc has a deep passion for Permaculture and has created several short films on the subject and also teaches workshops on the permaculture design process. His third film currently in development is about Emergence and Living Systems.
When did you first start making films? What is it about film that drew you?
I started in highschool really. From the age of 15 I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. I liked a few aspects of it and how it incorporates elements of all other art forms. But as I started I naturally tented towards documentary filmmaking because the lifestyle is a natural fit. It really is the school of life – I go out there and explore subjects I want to learn more about, but like school I need to go home, do my homework and edit the film in a way that is interesting for others to watch. So its sums up to learning and sharing which is great fun!
How did you learn about the story you highlighted in your film?
The project was shared to me by my father who thought since I make films about food that I should probably participate. I found Dan Jason through a friend who knows him well and had told me about him many times suggesting I go meet him, so when the opportunity came we connected and after a day of filming we had this film!
What do you hope people walk away from your film thinking about?
The beauty and bounty that nature provides if we just learn to live with it. Those little seeds pack so much potential its incredible! Concretely I hope people then choose to plant good seeds instead of commercial seeds.
What other issues would you have expanded on?
We can go really far with looking at seeds and we see that a feature films do that. Obviously the genetic manipulation and patenting of seeds is very important subject. But I think there are many more aspects of seeds that we as a general public don’t know much about and I look forward to exploring that in the future.
Who inspires you?
Michael Pollan. I really love his books.
Which organizations would you recommend that people can get involved with?
In Canada a great organization around seeds is USC Canada.
What’s next for you – do you have another project in the works?
- A short film in a similar style about Permaculture
- A series on cooperatives and explaining how the worker/owner model is very important
- Documentary on Emergence and the system view of life
- More short films on seed farmers
Watch The Gift:
Also from Jean-Marc, check out:
“Diversidad – A Road Trip to Deconstruct Dinner” is a documentary about a group of young Canadians who got on their bikes to raise awareness of the impacts of the World Trade Organization and industrial agriculture.
From the waterfronts of Vancouver to the mountaintops of Mexico, this is a journey that lifts the veil of youthful idealism. They discover that growing food organically isn’t quite as obvious as they thought for reasons they couldn’t imagine. They see that a lot of inner city families in the US do not have access to fresh food, let alone the opportunity to grow their own. Perhaps their biggest realization is that their point of view on the plight of the undocumented farm workers isn’t quite what they had read about before they left their homes back in Canada. As they travel south they begin to realize that perhaps this journey wasn’t so much about what they had to share with the world, but more about what they had to learn from the world.
Upon their return home, they are confronted by the reality of being part of the system they’re fighting against… Can they practice what they preach?