Bastards of Utopia

A remixable Documentary

Perfectly Good Cheese

Jelena salvages food and other goods from the dumpsters at Billa, a large chain supermarket. Read More

Billa, the international grocery chain, has built 190 new stores in Eastern Europe in the past 5 years.  The abandoned building renovated into a Free Store by the Network for Social Solidarity, a collective we followed closely, is in fact destined to be torn down to make an additional parking lot for the neighboring Billa.  For more on the Free Store and Billa, watch High Voltage.

Maple describes the visit to Billa as part of a food scavenging effort in an excerpt from his ethnographic fieldnotes:

They hide their bikes in the scruffy grass beyond the parking lot and make their way quietly through a gap in the chain link fence.  They navigate among the high green walls of stacked empty beer bottles to the dumpsters behind Billa.  Billa is one of the more prevalent international chains to have sprung up along Zagreb’s thoroughfares over the past five years.  Two of Jelena’s housemates go through the steel dumpsters.  Jelena sees her squat, Villa Viktorija (watch Jelena’s Mess) and the scavenging as the financial basis for a declaration of independence both from her parents and the life of consumerism she sees as overtaking Croatian society.  Squatting and scavenging allows her to be an activist on a nearly full-time basis.  But she isn’t scavenging for herself tonight.  She and her friends express relief later that night that the supermarkets in Zagreb have not started to splash ammonia or rat poison into their trash to prevent such “dumpster diving” as is common practice in Western Europe.  Jelena and another squatter climb up onto the loading dock where a sympathetic employee as left out a cardboard box of dented and past due canned goods, cooking oil, torn bags of rice and pasta, and a broken thermos.  The staples are going to the Hrana a ne oruzje-Food Not Bombs (watch Food Not Bombs) that will be served in the morning.  Others have already collected discarded produce from several of Zagreb’s open-air farmers’ markets.

For more on Zagreb’s farmers’ markets, watch Vegetable Central.