As an 18-year-old student, Katjia Gauriloff found herself working in a sausage factory in Helsinki, sharing her breaks with hardworking women and hearing about their lives and dreams.
20 years later, the Finnish filmmaker has made 'Canned Dreams', a quietly intense documentary that looks into where our food on supermarket shelves comes from, and into the minds of the people who produce it.
Canned Dreams is a quiet, intense film that sweeps across continents
Gauriloff spent four years making the film, walking through a labyrinth of international contacts and visas, translators and permits, spending a couple of days in each factory, in countries from Brazil to Ukraine, and hearing from the workers on farms producing everything from pork to maize, tomatoes to beef, as well as those making the cans in which it all comes.
Gauriloff, herself a vegetarian for 14 years, decided it would be polite to eat whatever she was offered in each of these countries, but the biggest surprise she found wasn't even in the food, it was the vestiges of slavery that still existed around the can-making in Brazil.
What is even more disturbing watching the film is the dissonance between some of the more gruesome tasks necessary in creating food like pork and beef, and the workers' own personal reflections on their lives. Gauriloff gives no commentary, letting her subjects speak for themselves with striking, thought-provoking, results.
Where do cans come from?
"People shouldn't treat each other like that," says one sad abattoir worker of the way he's been betrayed by his wife and her lover, while we watch him silently hose down the blood from another working day.
Reaction to the film so far has been overwhelmingly positive, even if one girl from Finland refused to believe Gauriloff that this could happen in her own country.
"Some people refuse to believe there is any blood in butchering," the director reflects. "They think that animals just go to sleep, and that isn't the case."
Gauriloff lets the workers in each of the countries tell their own stories, with some startling results
But she stops short of judgement. Gauriloff lives in Lapland and realises she has access to fresh food (as well as a partner who is a dab hand in the kitchen) that gives her the choice of good, ethical meals others are in not in a position to enjoy.
"I'm not telling people what to do. I would just like people to think about where their food is coming from. But, personally, I don't like ready meals."
Watch the trailer below...