May 6, 2020
How often do you hear the term
superfoods these days? I hear health and fitness gurus talking
about it all the time and my local grocery store even has a
dedicated aisle just for superfoods! My guest today was really
intrigued by this Superfood phenomenon. She wanted to know how
these superfoods affect our bodies and how the growing of the foods
affects farmers. Ann Shin is an award-winning director and producer
known for beautiful, compelling documentary films, series, and
innovative, interactive projects. Hers films and series have aired
all over numerous networks including HBO, ABC, HGTV, and Discovery,
just to name a few. Her latest documentary, The Superfood
Chain, follows Ann as she meets farming families in
Bolivia, Ethiopia, Philippines, and more who are affected by the
Superfood industry. This was a fascinating conversation and I know
you’re going to enjoy learning from Ann too.
The Ann 101
- Ann is a writer and documentary
film maker who made her start at CBC radio. She has loved both
writing and stories all her life and started her career doing radio
- Ann loved working in the studio
using clips to create stories with soundscapes. It wasn’t long
before she realized she wanted to work on long form
- Growing up on a mushroom farm in
Langley, BC, Ann learned a lot about vegetable gardening. She lives
in Toronto now and having a smaller patch of land got her curious
about where we are getting our foods these days. It started her
journey toward making The Superfood Chain, a documentary
about superfoods from around the world.
- Ann’s experience with documentary
subjects is vast. She has also covered stories about two war vets
from the Iran, Iraq War called My Enemy, My Brother that
was nominated for an Emmy and short-listed for an Oscar! She has
also covered North Korean defectors escaping North Korea through
China in a piece called The Defector.
- Ann has always loved expression
through visual arts and made the transition from radio producer to
TV producer, gradually pitching her own stories.
- At that time Ann also started
working for production companies on documentary series. She
directed a documentary for the National Film Board called Western Eyes about cosmetic surgery among
- Soon Ann was also directing as a
freelancer on a range of lifestyle and documentary series. Many in
the industry find the lifestyle series a grind because it’s so
repetitive, but it helped Ann gain a lot of the directing
experience she would need to go out on her on in the
8:45 – The Superfood
- Like many of us, Ann enjoys
shopping for healthy and whole foods, especially after learning
more about where our food comes and growing a small garden with her
- When out shopping, she started to
notice that every month there was a new superfood and marketing to
go along with it. She started to wonder why suddenly superfoods
were being introduced and promoted. She also wanted to understand
the impact it had on farmers growing superfoods.
- Most superfoods are age-old crops
grown on a small scale, and Ann questioned how the growth footprint
may have changed as superfoods seemed to be exploding on a much
larger (and popular) scale.
- When she served her children a
dinner made with a superfood, they would ask where it’s from. Ann
realized she couldn’t tell her kids the cultural significance of
the food and only that they were eating it because it’s healthy.
She started researching superfoods grown in other countries and how
they get to our dinner plates.
- In popular culture, superfoods are
known as healthy foods that help combat diseases and are super rich
with nutrients and antioxidants to help us stay
- In many cases, Ann learned that
these descriptors were just a big marketing tactic. As she
researched more, she realized it was leading consumers to believe
that superfoods are somehow better than the other nutrient-rich
foods they have always had access to. We don’t necessarily need
extra nutrients in North America where we have easy access to all
the nutrients we need already.
- The hype around superfoods can
lead people to think that they need to buy superfoods to be healthy
when in fact there are tons of (non-superfood) foods around us that
are very nutritional.
16:46 - A Shift
- We’ve seen a huge shift in the
food industry in the last 10-15 years toward more organic, whole,
and non-GMO food, and people are questioning where their food comes
- Ann and her daughters took a trip
to Boliva to learn how quinoa is grown. They learned that as demand
for quinoa skyrocketed in North America, farmers in Boliva
initially became wealthy, but quinoa soon became too expensive for
local Bolivians to purchase.
- There was a big disruption in the
sustainability of quinoa. When larger farms in Boliva and other
parts of the world became successful, the quinoa prices dropped and
the farmers who were initially successful started turning their
farms back to grow potatoes because they made more money growing
potatoes than quinoa.
- Global production caused farms
that were initially successful to struggle to stay in business once
quinoa prices fell.
21:13 – Our Buying
- There is a ripple effect with our
buying decisions. It’s worth buying a fair-trade food products that
you’ve researched because legitimate fair-trade organizations can
lobby for land rights and help farmers get the equipment they need
to keep their businesses going.
- We can also support the farmers
near us. There are a lot of great nutritional options around us,
and the closer the food is to us, the lower the footprint and the
more meaningful the purchase.
- We can be mindful about how we
shop in the grocery store and doing so can positively impact
farmers that are near us and far away too.
You can find The Superfood Chain
HERE. It’s also available on Amazon Prime, Google
Play, Voodoo, and Tubi. Fathomfilm.ca
has more of Ann’s documentaries streaming as well!
30:45 - Getting to Know Our
Find out Ann’s strangest pet peeve,
what she thinks we will be nostalgic for in forty years, and of
course the question I ask all my guests! Stay tuned to hear Ann’s
answer to what it means to her to run a business with
~5:42 - “When something just sticks
when me and I come back to it again and again, I find I want to
delve into it further and I start to develop and research a
documentary around it.”
~11:10 – “I realized I was really
divorced from one, where the food was coming from, but also how
it’s prepared. There was no cultural significance to the food that
I was feeding the kids.”
14:53 - “The hype around superfoods
can be a bit misleading. People might think they need to buy the
superfood to be healthy but in fact, no. There are extra nutrients
in these foods, but there’s tons of foods around us that are very
About Ann Shin:
Ann is an award-winning Director and Producer known for
beautiful, compelling documentary films, series and innovative
interactive projects. Her films and series have aired on CBC, TVO,
HBO, ABC, CBC The Documentary Channel, Discovery Channel, HGTV,
History Channel, SLICE. Her latest film, My Enemy, My
Brother won Grand Jury Prize at SDAIFF , the short
version was shortlisted for a 2016 Academy Award, and nominated for
Connect with Ann