Dive! Living off America’s Waste (DVD)

A team of dumpster divers prowls LA’s streets in search of edible food needlessly thrown away.

For a film that wants to impact change, Dive! straddles the boundaries between an informational and educational film more than I anticipated.

The first third of Dive! details the nightly routines of the dumpster divers making the film. Paired with disturbing facts about waste (96 billion pounds of food are wasted every year), these are the most impactful story elements. The next third is spent trying to track down grocery store executives to talk about food waste. As you might expect, this never happens. And finally Dive! wraps up by providing its audience with a call to action.

Director Jeremy Seifert and his team complain about the lack of education surrounding food perishability/salvageability, but make very little effort to correct it. The only thing I learned is how to tell when eggs go bad. The dumpster divers salvage tons of raw meat, stating it had only just started brown, but never explain why this is okay to eat. If you want to change the world, you need to give us a little more reason than that.

A good portion of Dive! is spent wondering why certain food is thrown away, and why more isn’t given away. While the former is never satisfactorily answered (except to posit that grocery stores simply are unaware of what needs to be done for salvage purposes), the latter is better explored. Stores state they give away what they feel is “safe,” which is mostly bread. But the filmmakers drop the ball, because the stores are merely relying on government guidelines on expiration dates. How did the FDA come up with these dates? There’s no follow up, on the part of Dive!

At one point, the discussion turns to expiration guidelines being nothing more than a means of avoiding litigation. And yet, no one bothers to explain how we can really tell for ourselves what’s still safe to eat and what’s not. The only advice provided is to join your town’s food policy council or start your own. What “food policy council” would that be?!

The full video presentation is an odd mix of Mini-DV, Super 8, and stop-motion animation (which is what worked best for me). Being able to see, not just hear, some of the key points was extremely effective. The Super 8 nature transitions were the least appealing. The standard 2.0 stereo track was nothing special — film’s soundtrack being both enjoyable and effective — but a documentary such as this requires little else.

Only two special features of note: A series of interviews/profiles of the divers, and a theatrical trailer. During the interviews, one of the divers admits to peeing his pants while salvaging. Gee, I wonder why more people don’t participate in dumpster diving? It’s not knowing the food’s been in dumpsters that sickens me, it’s the people further contaminating what’s being salvaged. Food is okay, people are gross.

Dive! is a frustrating film, one that seems to be operating under the assumption that its audience has a much firmer grasp on these concepts than I did. It may be worth seeing to understand how wasteful we as a society are, but I wanted the narrative to be something more than what it is.


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