The lingering opening to Yung Chang’s 2012 documentary The Fruit Hunters evokes a passion for the fruit it shows as the voiceover asks, “Is it strange that when I look at certain fruit, I find myself… a bit… aroused?”
Based on Adam Leith Gollner’s book, The Fruit Hunters follows these seekers as they search for rare fruits, to save fruits, to find forgotten fruits, and to join people through fruits. The documentary travels the globe, from Hondouras to Hawaii and from Indonesia to Italy, following these hunters in their pursuits.
While passion drives fruit hunters generally, they frequently have greater goals. Industrial farming practices and deforestation threaten some fruits. Juan Aguilar races to prevent bananas from succumbing to fungus. Richard Campbell and Noris Ledesma race to save mangoes from disappearing in the wake of industrialization. Actor Bill Pullman attempts to plant an orchard near his home in hopes of dissuading yet another housing development.
The fruits themselves play a starring role as well. The documentary introduces multiple kinds through the people’s passions and the closing credits. (My favorite was the cannonball fruit.) While the sequences with people offer proficient standard framing, the sequences showing the fruits become art.
The documentary also attempts to weave in elements of fruit and history and sometimes uses re-enactments to illustrate these events. While offering interesting information, these re-enactments felt out of place among the other elements.
Overall, The Fruit Hunters felt like “The Amazing Race,” but with fruit. The prize is not the victory, but the passion is.