EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Director Behind Award-Winning Plant-Based Documentary

Nina Messinger created the film 'H.O.P.E - What You Eat Matters'
Filmmaker Nina Messinger (right) with Dr. Jane Goodall (Photo: Supplied)

An award-winning documentary creating awareness about the whole food, plant-based diet has been making waves since its release earlier this year.

H.O.P.E (which stands for Healing Of Planet Earth) What You Eat Matters - features Austrian author and filmmaker Nina Messinger, as she goes on a journey through Europe, India and the US to investigate the consequences of our diet. She interviewed a number of experts for the documentary, including Dr. Jane Goodall, T. Colin Campbell, PhD, surgeon, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., and psychologist Melanie Joy, PhD.

Plant Based News spoke exclusively to Nina Messinger, who previously authored 2011 German-language book Thou shalt not kill! Plea for a non-violent Diet, then wanted to do more to highlight the relationships between the typicial Western diet, environmental degradation, animal suffering, and human health.

Making the movie

Talking about the impact humans can achieve by changing their diet -  in terms of health, ethics, and environmentally - Messinger said: "I believe that recognizing these relationships is crucial for the psychological as well as the physical survival of humanity.

"These challenges motivated and inspired me to make my film. Too many people are unaware of these important connections. My goal is to help people realise that each one of us can have a tremendous impact through our daily actions of shopping as a conscious consumer, choosing organic products, and eating a whole food, plant-based diet.

"These daily actions have the ability to create positive change on a global scale and make this world a better place for all."

Space for something new

According to Messinger, she found a gap in the documentary market for H.O.P.E. "There have already been many important films made about the destruction of the environment by the agricultural industry and about the harmful health effects of an animal-based diet," she told PBN.

"However, a key component, that I felt was missing, was the perspective of the animal abuse by the agricultural industry due to greed. So I decided to make a comprehensive film to show both the power of the individual as a consumer and the far-reaching consequences of consuming such products."

The filmmaker says she wanted to call attention to the fact that animal-based diets have far-reaching implications for all involved - endangering human health, causing ' incomprehensible' suffering for animals, and destroying the environment. It also promotes global hunger and forced migration.

 

The film is available on PBN's channel. Subscribe to PBN's YouTube Channel here

Consumer power

She added: "And I want to point out the power that each of us has as consumers. Moral appeals to treat animals better will make no difference as long as animals are considered a commodity and exploited to earn the highest amount of profit possible.

"In contrast, our refusal to purchase animal products – or at least buy fewer of them – creates immediate, effective change. We may be powerless as citizens, but as consumers we have the power to force the food industry to change to products that are friendly to animals, humans and the environment.

"Our shopping basket is a powerful tool: Not only can we make major improvements to our health, but improve the whole world, to the benefit of everyone."

The horror of animal farming

An important part of the film was giving the viewer 'insight into the sad everyday life of animals in fattening farms', with imagery in the film being 'representative of the millions and millions of animals that suffer this horror every day', according to Messinger.

"The majority of animals come from factory farms, where the conditions are unimaginable," she told PBN. "Animals are no longer seen as individuals, but are degraded to mere means of production. They obviously suffer – both physically and mentally – but the consumer is not supposed to know that, of course."

She revealed that obtaining filming permits for factory farm facilities was one of the major challenges she faced producing the film, adding: "This problem did not occur with vegetable or fruit farmers. I found that questionable and surprising at the same time. Should we not all have the right to see how and where our food is being produced?  If we are not allowed to see how our food is made, do we really want to eat it?"

Independent film

The film was made without any national or regional film subsidies as a result of Messinger's drive to make a 100 percent independently produced piece. It was financed exclusively through private funding and donations.

Aside from the work involved raising financing, Messinger says she 'underestimated' the time and the organizational, technical and financial effort at the start of the process, as a novice filmmaker. "I had to learn a lot of new things very quickly. But I've met many knowledgeable, inspiring people who helped me and taught me a lot."

Despite being new to production, the director managed to get an impressive roster of high-profile names involved. "My goal was to interview experts from all over the world who have already dealt with the subject intensively," she says. "I wanted to bring together the best in my film and I did that: Jane Goodall, T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Vandana Shiva, Melanie Joy, Marc Bekoff and many more are a part of my documentary.

"Everyone I interviewed for my film is critical of the animal-based western diet and mass animal husbandry. So, thankfully, it was amazingly easy for me to get them interested in helping with H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters. I assume that's because they're all enthusiastic to make this world a better, more peaceful place."

Documentary director Nina Messinger with some cows
Filmmaker Nina Messinger (Photo: Supplied)

Reactions

Reactions to the film have been 'fantastic' so far according to Messinger, who added: "I have received a lot positive and moving feedback, and every comment is a gift to me that I am incredibly grateful for. Because every individual counts.

"Time and again, individuals and families have written to tell me that the film has opened their eyes and hearts to the suffering of animals and the destruction of our environment through a meat- and milk-based diet, and that they have started to change their diet and are experiencing the many personal benefits.

Among the responses that have made me especially happy is Sir Paul McCartney's, who said 'this important film highlights the choices we must make to help protect this planet and all its inhabitants'. I hope that the film will reach many more people from all over the world and help make the world a better and more peaceful place."

Watching the film

Messigner has made H.O.P.E  available to watch for free online. She said: "In March 2018 I started my new project, H.O.P.E. The Project. The aim is to promote a conscious diet and lifestyle that serves to save lives as well as protect billions of animals from unnecessary suffering and preserve the environment.

"As part of this project, I made my film available to the world for free. Now anyone can watch it anytime, anywhere (in English with subtitles in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese; more languages to come) or organize free screenings.

The filmmaker will also be releasing free, exclusive bonus material from the film. "Also planned is the production of further video contributions, which bring the viewer closer to the importance of a whole food, plant-based diet and lifestyle," she added.

If you would like to host a free screening of H.O.P.E - What You Eat Matters, you can find more information here 

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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PBN Contributor:

Maria is the Editor of Plant Based News. A former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaChiorando and Instagram @mariachiorando.

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