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Hungry for 'Fruit Hunters'

Cinedigm Docurama gets a taste of exotic produce

By Jessi Cape, Fri., May 10, 2013

Hungry for 'Fruit Hunters'

The fourth installment in the Cinedigm Docurama series screening at the Alamo Drafthouse, The Fruit Hunters treks across the globe examining the origin stories and flavor profiles of rare fruit. This quirky documentary, directed by documentary filmmaker Yung Chang, follows several rare fruit experts and enthusiasts, including Bill Pullman, as they actively seek to preserve the culture and future of their lifelong passion. From their childhood dreams of hillside orchards to their obsessive attempts to graft rare breeds of fruit trees, the characters are as wacky and vibrant as the fruit they adore.

The film, inspired by Adam Leith Gollner's book The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession, makes a pit stop at the Rare Fruit Council International – the Comic-Con of fruit hunters. Just as there's a line in the sand between fans of Batman and Superman, fruit hunters fervently discuss tastes and textures of 600 types of mango. One attendee compares a particular bite of fruit to vanilla ice cream while another instantly disagrees, claiming it is more like an outhouse. Passionate fruit lovers agree, however, that the world of fruit known to most people pales in comparison to the world's hidden treasure troves, where there is more to taste than one could possibly accomplish in a lifetime.

The Fruit Hunters also ventures back to the dawn of civilization, explaining the incredibly diverse history of these little miracles; discusses humans' evolutionary advancements in color vision; and poses the ultimate question: "Do you feel the weight of fallen dynasties when you devour a lychee?" The filmmakers journeyed to the wild jungles of Borneo to walk alongside one of the last nomadic tribes, the Penan: fruit hunters forever, guardians of the ancient. Back in the modern day, the film includes discussion of monoculture vs. biodiversity – protecting the Garden of Eden or facilitating corporate business opportunities. The weight of global culture's contributions – both positive and negative – is also considerable, and grafting is also essential to the preservation the world's most rare fruit trees, many standing directly in the path of loggers.

Rare fruits, such as the Kura Kura Durian, are comparable to the Mona Lisa, says one expert. Fruit detectives study centuries-old works of art to learn more; businesspeople trade in their Corvettes to move to Hawaii and live among Willy Wonka-esque fruits; Bill Pullman (delightful in the film) engages his community to learn about his unending devotion to fruit. This beautiful documentary, complete with excellent score and stunning visuals, is thought-provoking and decidedly crave-worthy.


The Fruit Hunters screens Tuesday, May 14, 6:30pm, at the Alamo Drafthouse Village; Saturday, May 18, 1pm, at the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane; and Sunday, May 19, 1pm, also at Slaughter Lane. Three more features will close out the Cinedigm Docurama series over the coming month; stay tuned to austinchronicle.com/pip for details.

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