Dive! The Film: A Review of Jeremy Seifert's Documentary on Dumpster Diving

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Dive!At Camas Friends Church, we’ve been doing a monthly film and discussion group we’re calling “Last Sundays for the Earth.” The purpose of the event is to watch a film, or have a person come in and facilitate a discussion, around issues in sustainable living (and what we can do about it as the church). The first film we watched was Al Gore’s documentary on Global Warming, “An Inconvenient Truth.” This last month we watched a film by a good friend of ours, Jeremy Seifert. Jeremy and I went to Fuller Seminary and church together. So I felt a personal connection to the film, plus most of the people in there are friends of ours!

Dive! is a documentary about dumpster diving, but it is about much more than that as well. It is about the hunger crisis in our nation, and world. It is about the amount of waste that we pile into our landfills at an alarming rate. It is about the realities of consumerism’s over-consumption and the impact this has in our day-to-day lives. But of course, this is all told while watching Jeremy and company dive in dumpsters.

As a documentary film it is well done. It is about 45 minutes long and not only holds the attention, it is both creative and provocative. There are a variety of statics drawn up using food items found in the dumpster, a great soundtrack (from Jeremy’s band Jubilee Singers), and lots of creative editing along the way. There are a number of intriguing interviews, and compelling research to go along with the issues this short film documents. The filmmaker obviously did his homework.

One thing that I find compelling about the film is that it is personal. Jeremy’s family and friends are involved, it is a glimpse into their actual lives. It is a personal film, a personal call from someone who is responding the best way he knows how. It’s not the kind of high brow morality that calls you to live a certain way while it’s obvious that the prophet isn’t doing it him or herself (and isn’t this one of the tensions in Gore’s film on global warming? All the audience knows that he flies all around the world piling up more carbon waste than many Americans will in a lifetime). There is no such thing in this film. So the film is close, it feels like something I can actually take part in, rather than something more abstract and distant like global warming. And surely, responding to the details of Dive! is in line with being conscious of the devastation of global warming.

Refreshingly, the film’s response doesn’t involve consumerism! Unlike so many “change the world” gimmicks, you don’t actually have to buy anything to respond to this film. In fact, there is no suggestion anywhere in this film that one should buy this or that in order to respond to hunger and waste, in fact, if there is a response it is to start buying less, scaling back, being careful of what it is you buy, what packaging it’s in, and making sure that you use what you have instead of throwing it away. Of course, another response is to become a freegan and start your own dumpster diving cohort.

Finally, one other thing I love about this film is that a genuine conversation takes place through the movie. It starts out with Jeremy and his friends dumpster diving, but over the course of the film you see that he is struck by the amount of waste they continue to find, this in conjunction with the growing food crisis that was all over the news last Autumn really woke Seifert up to what was happening in the world. He told me over the phone, “In the physical act of jumping in a dumpster and eating waste something happens, the reality strikes you of what is taking place.” This caused a kind of outrage for him. After quoting the answer to his question “What kind of society creates this much trash?” from Dr. Timothy Jones, “The kind of society that would waste this much food is one that doesn’t value the earth or the products it produces. It’s in our own personal detriment to continue the process,” Seifert told me that what needs to be regained is a sense of wonder and awe towards creation. Abraham  Joshua Heschel said, “Forfeit your sense of awe, let your conceit diminish your ability to revere, and the universe becomes a market place for you.”Getting that wonder back is essential. For Jeremy, “If you have that sense of awe and wonder and you see it being abused and mangled there’s that sense of outrage that leads to response.” And the rest of the film traces some of the personal response that he and his friends undertake.

Response? : Eat Trash

There are many things that can be done in response to what you learn in this film, but Here’s what he writes in his own words about response:

For me, an important first step to really caring about the issue of food waste was hopping in a dumpster, bringing home the food, and eating it. Eating trash is a subversive act. It goes against a culture of over-consumption and gratuitous wastefulness. Experience that initial rush, shame, fear, and exhilaration of “stealing” trash and eating it will change you in good ways.

Second, I think it’s important to go to your local grocery store and ask what they do with their food waste. They might not tell you. Or they’ll dodge the question by listing organizations to which they donate. Ask them about all the FRESH food–meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables. Ask them if they would be open to allowing you to pick this food up and bring it to a nonprofit that serves the needy. Do all of this with a pleasant tone, big smile, and servant’s heart.

Bring a copy of THE GOOD SAMARITAN ACT….download here.

Third, you’ll need a place to bring the food, so you’ll have to locate a shelter or food bank in your area that could use the food. This is where logistics comes into play. They’ll need to be able to immediately use or temporarily store fresh food….shelving space, refrigerators, freezers. This step actually happens at the same time as visiting your local grocery stores. You will probably need a letter from the shelter or food bank stating their needs, requesting donations, and naming you or your family/friends/organization/church as the volunteer designated to pick up the food.

The feedback from the film showing was tremendous. People seemed to love it. There was great conversation afterwards and a number of people felt like this is the kind of thing a lot of people can relate to and connect with.

I highly encourage you to find a screening near you or pick up the film for yourself and show it to your faith community, it will be well worth every minute.

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Wess

A papa, Quaker minister, Phd in Intercultural Studies from Fuller, & prof. Contributor to Antioch Sessions. Angelic troublemaker & #sketchnote preacher. Enjoys #remix, liberation theology, bourbon & a wool vest.
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8 thoughts on “Dive! The Film: A Review of Jeremy Seifert's Documentary on Dumpster Diving”

  1. This reminds me of a French film I saw in undergrad titled "The Gleaners and I". It's a beautiful film, probably along the same lines. The practice of picking up what others have left behind is age old and biblical (I couldn't stop thinking of Ruth as I was watching!).

  2. Do you have any suggestions for discussion questions or topics? I'm going to be screening the movie with my church soon and I'd like to have some sort of interaction at the end.

  3. Do you have any suggestions for discussion questions or topics? I'm going to be screening the movie with my church soon and I'd like to have some sort of interaction at the end.

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