Nerves were racking in Virginia’s Food City, the first setting of “Ready, Set, Bag!”, a documentary on competitive grocery bagging by Executive Producer and Pixar CTO, Oren Jacob, and directed by his wife Justine Jacob as well as Alex D. da Silva. The winner would be flown to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to compete in the National Grocers Association’s Best Bagger competition. Not only would the baggers have to be fast, the bags had to be packed properly – no squished bread or frozen peas below cans – and the weight of each bag had to be even.
States across the country held their own bag-a-thons to compete for the big event. Some held competitions reminiscent of rock concerts, treating the baggers like celebrities while they cheered them on under strings of lights wearing togas, referees and announcers called out the stats (California, where else?). Others kept their grocery store settings or held the competitions in banquet halls. One clerk was an adorable, naïve teenager who was a member of the school band when he wasn’t bagging groceries. Another was an anal retentive bagger who would go so far as to unpack his co-workers bags because they weren’t up to his standards. From California was a red-haired teen from Davis with a cult following and a twin brother who looked nothing like him. Moms, dads, sons, daughters – all ages and types of people were on their way to Vegas to see who was the best of the best, the fastest of the fastest.
Cheryl Gleason, Director of Training at Nugget Markets in Davis, CA, gave the best quote in the movie, and I can’t help but spoil it here. “We see 24-26,000 guests a week. That’s 24-26,000 opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes that little gesture of taking somebody out to their car, opening the car door – I mean, they’re such slight little things, but those are the moments where people go, ‘Ok, that was great.’ It’s the warm and fuzzy. It’s the warm and fuzzy that makes you feel good about humanity.” She went on to say, “Everybody goes to the grocery store. It doesn’t matter what your income, what your job, what your nationality, race. Everybody’s got to buy groceries. Because we’re so busy, sometimes you don’t see your neighbors unless you see them in the grocery store. You know, you can get a person just coming in from work, they’re dressed to the nines. And then you get the person that just woke up, hasn’t combed their hair, threw on a sweatshirt, in their sweats and still in their slippers. And so it’s a common thing that we all do, we all understand, we all need. Whether it’s buying $500 worth of groceries, or just picking up a gallon of milk. ‘Cause we all go to the supermarket.”
“Ready, Set, Bag!” takes us on a journey to the national competition, letting us get to know the competitors on a personal level before the big day arrives. By the end, I even grew to love the anal retentive bagger.
I won’t spoil the end to say who won; you’ll have to see the movie to see for yourself. And you’ll have the opportunity to see this heartwarming documentary at Rialto Cinemas on Summerfield Rd. in Santa Rosa this Wednesday, December 2nd at 7:15 pm. The makers of “Ready, Set, Bag!” are teaming with many different local food banks, benefitting organizations in the towns they are showing the film. The December 2nd showing at Santa Rosa’s Rialto will be benefitting the Redwood Empire Food Bank, an organization that helps needy families in Sonoma County to be able to have enough food. The Rialto will be offering $1 off admission, and 50 cents off a medium or large popcorn if you bring in two items of non-perishable food. Mechanics Bank will donate $1 for every ticket sold.
You can see the trailer for this film at http://www.readysetbag.com. The film starts out with “Leonardo”, an animated short about the inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci done with amusing humor in a pencil sketch format by Academy Award nominee Jim Capobianco. After the film, stay for a Q/A session with the Directors and the Producer.
Rialto admission for adults is $10, kids and seniors are $7. The film runs 90 minutes long.