One of OC's most influential yet unheralded pioneers is Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, the founder and head of Frieda's Specialty Produce in Los Alamitos. The produce industry respects her like crazy: not only was she one of the first women in that rough-and-tumble, male-dominated, muy macho world, Frieda also proved to be one of the best produce people ever, specializing in then-obscure products like kiwifruit, jícama, habaneros, Asian pears, and so many more fruits and vegetables that we now take for granted. And her company continues to differentiate itself in the field: it's largely female-driven (Frida's daughters now run the company), they love the color purple, and employee enthusiasm makes kindergarten teachers seem like morticians.
The story of Frieda and her company are the subject of a 90-minute documentary, the awesomely titled Fear No Fruit, that's playing at the Newport Beach Film Festival TOMORROW.
Fear No Fruit does a great job of showcasing both Frieda and Frieda's. We get Frieda–91 years old, with no signs of slowing down–talking about her life, how she got in the industry, and how it was being a married mother with children in the 1960s while working in produce, as demanding a profession as there is. The filmmakers do a great job of having television clips of Frieda through the years explain the company's rise–both a clever montage, stylistically, but also showing how much influence she's had over decades that the press went to her again and again. And if that's not enough, there's a shot of the staircase at the offices of Frieda's Produce (a photo of which is above) highlighting just some of the hundreds of fruits and vegetables she's introduced to American palates over the decades–as awesome a Walk of Fame as you'll ever see.
Then Fear No Fruit switches over to family succession in the form of Frieda's daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, who currently serve as president-CEO and vice-president-COO, respectively, and even sneak in Alex Jackson, Karen's daughter and a Frieda's marketing program manager. All three talk about their own challenges living up to their legendary mother (and grandma) while forging a new path forward for the company. There are testimonials by journalists about the company, a behind-the-scenes look from staff meetings to going to downtown Los Angeles at 3 a.m. on the search for deals, and much more. It's a great family story, an awesome profile of a company, and enjoyable throughout thanks to the wisecracking Frieda. And though it's never really painted as such, it's more feminist a film (and company) than any Lena Dunham claptrap can ever hope to be.
Here's the trailer:
Fear No Fruit screens at the Islands Cinema at 12:45 TOMORROW. And, better yet, Frieda herself will be on hand for a q-and-a with the director. Buy your tickets here and GO GO GO…oh, wait: the screening is already sold out. But who knows? Doc Frieda just might have some fruit for ya to tide you over outside…