I learned that aliens currently inhabit this earth and they come in the form of oddly shaped, comically textured, beautifully (and not so beautifully) colored food we term fruit.
Without even going into the intricate and delicate definition of what really is a fruit (tomato – fruit or vegetable?), these flower ovaries and tissues are morphed by the sun into edible delights.
Marking a path around the world, fruit hunters live with an obsession of finding fruits wherever or whenever they grow. Some of these fruits we could gorge down in minutes and others we might hesitate to eat.
For example, the durian, a spiky green football of a fruit, (sometimes called “the king of fruits”) tastes like rich custard highly flavored with almonds, yet smells like a pair of dirty gym socks.
Or the monstera fruit that tastes similar to pineapple but must be eaten ripened when the scales from its green corn-like body lift up, the unripe fruit causing irritation to the throat due to toxins.
It’s all part of the wonderful world of fruit.
In “The Fruit Hunters,” Chang visits Hawaii-based tropical fruit activist and grower Ken Love, then joins the trek of both Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden curators Richard Campbell and Noris Ledesma into the jungles of Bali and Borneo in their hunt for rare mangoes and durians.
Then there’s Bill Pullman tromping through the brush with Ken Love to find pacay, a fruit called ice-cream bean with its luscious innards revealed on the big screen, no doubt enticing the audience for something sweet to eat.
The film was loosely adapted from the book “The Fruit Hunters” by Chang’s neighbor and friend Adam Leith Gollner, yet kept the essence Gollner brings to his book.
Gollner describes in his introduction a subculture of enthusiasts that have devoted their lives to the quest for fruit. He outlines, “Writing this story meant getting to know fruit nuts, fruit smugglers, fruit explorers, fruit fetishists, fruit inventors, fruit cops, fruit robbers, fruitarians, and even a fruit massager. These characters offer a glimpse into our planet’s diversity – both botanical and human.”
The journey Chang takes us on brings nature, commerce and adventure along an unseen highway from the dawn of humanity to the far edges of modern agriculture. I get the connection Gollner offers and what Chang must reveal in his film, the hidden current that binds humans to the natural world is ultimately navigated by nature’s most humble offering, the fruit.
The Fruit Hunters screens on Monday, May 29, at 7:15 p.m. at the Port Theater. for tickets, visit NewportBeachFilmFest.com.