Courtesy of Eating Animals

“Eating Animals,” a documentary directed by Christopher Quinn and coproduced by Natalie Portman, was screened at the Whitney Humanities Center on Friday night.

The film, which was released this past June, traces the history of food production in the United States. It contrasts local and sustainable farming practices with a “corporate Frankenstein monster that offers cheap eggs, meat and dairy,” according to the film’s website. Following the screening, the event included a Q&A session with Quinn and Caitlin Taylor, a director at MASS Design Group. The event was co-sponsored by the Whitney Humanities Center and the Yale Welfare Animal Alliance.

“We really wanted to make something meaningful — not just another food documentary that gives you a lot of information but one that shows the real fallout in the individuals that are part of or caught up in the industrial system,” Quinn said. “We didn’t want anyone to feel that they were getting a ‘talking to.’ We wanted to give viewers the space to think for themselves.”

The documentary focuses on the testimonies of several farmers and activists, while specifically portraying independent farmers and those who have suffered under the system of industrialized agriculture. According to Quinn, although the film drew from the best-selling novel “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer — who played a large role in the making of the film — the book and documentary are very different.

After the screening and before the audience Q&A session, Lauren Kohler ’19, a senior adviser at the Yale Sustainable Food Project, interviewed Quinn and Taylor.

Kohler noted that she aimed to ask questions beyond the scope of the film itself.

“I wanted to ask questions that would allow Christopher and Caitlin to speak both to the film and to their broader work outside of it — for example, how their professional experiences inform their approach to industrial animal agriculture and to the U.S. food system,” Kohler said.

When Kohler asked Quinn how he came to be involved with “Eating Animals,” Quinn said that Portman and Foer approached him with the idea.

Both Portman and Foer were familiar with his earlier work and expressed interest in him directing the film, Quinn said.

Quinn is known for his 2006 documentary “God Grew Tired of Us” along with commercials for companies such as Microsoft, Bank of America and the CDC’s “Tips from Former Smokers” Campaign.

According to Quinn, he was initially hesitant to make “another” food documentary, but reading Foer’s novel changed his mind.

Taylor said that she sees architecture as a form of activism.

“We are at a critical moment where we have the opportunity to design new and better systems that can be ready to replace the industrialized system when it collapses,” Taylor said. “From the first moment that I saw this film, I saw the systemic potential of Frank Reese’s work.”

Taylor owns a farm in Connecticut and works as a design director at MASS Design Group — a nonprofit architecture design collective — where she specializes in agriculture, design and food systems. Taylor become connected to the film and event through her friendship and work with Quinn.

According to Taylor, after seeing the documentary, she became interested in working with one of the farmers featured in the film: Frank Reese. In the documentary, Reese expresses his dream of opening an educational institute dedicated to the heritage breeding of poultry and agroecology. Taylor is now serving as the architectural designer of this institute, which will be known as the Good Shepherd Institute.

The screening was part of the Lazarus Events Series for Sustainable Food and Agriculture at Yale, also known as “Chewing the Fat.” The series offers Yale students a chance to learn more about sustainable food and farming practices through speakers, culinary workshops and film screenings, according to the Yale Sustainable Food Program’s website.

Madison Mahoney | madison.mahoney@yale.edu .