Documentary film asks whether Charleston can support area food

"Overalls & Aprons" is a new documentary from filmmaker Thibaut Fagonde about Charleston's food culture.

There is no shortage of documentaries showcasing reasons to shun big ag: In addition to features such as "Fed Up," "Food, Inc." and "Forks Over Knives," San Francisco's Food + Farm Film Fest this spring screened more than a dozen shorts celebrating the local food movement. But Charleston filmmaker Thibaut Fagonde says his forthcoming film about the city's food culture is unique in its willingness to probe the challenges associated with sustainable agriculture.

"It's not a doom-and-gloom documentary, but it's really looking at the true benefits and the true costs," says Fagonde.

"Overalls & Aprons" closely tracks eight Charleston chefs, including chefs Frank Lee, Mike Lata and Sean Brock, Kevin Johnson and Fred Neuville, and the producers who sell to them, including Joseph Fields, Sidi Limehouse and Dave "Clammer Dave" Belanger.

"If they get quality, they will support the farmers," Fields says in a trailer for the still-unfinished feature. "They'll put our name on the menu, and when the customer goes and sees the farmer's name on the menu, they want to come to the market and buy fresh produce, also."

Whether that's a formula for a vibrant food system, complete with fairly compensated growers, is the question Fagonde hoped to answer through interviews with doctors, distributors and economists. "Is this sustainable, or is this a trend?" he asks, adding that his film will touch on farmer Celeste Albers and crabber Kimberly Carroll being forced out of business. (Albers is still farming, but she had to give up her egg operation because it wasn't financially viable.)

Fagonde, a native of France, became interested in Charleston's food system five years ago after relocating here with his wife, who's from the area.

"I was like, wow, there's a really fun food scene, but then I was like, I think there's a conversation here," he recalls. "They're rediscovering what it means to have quality. So it's kind of a call to action: How bad do we want it?"

When Fagonde showed the "Overalls & Aprons" trailer to a Good Food Awards audience last month, three years after filming began, "it got a great response," he reports. The feature is scheduled to make its local debut Oct. 29 at the Charleston Music Hall. First though, Fagonde has to finish editing it.

"It could be a trilogy," he says. "I have enough footage."

To stay abreast of the film's progress, visit

Reach Hanna Raskin at 937-5560.