Friday, July 03, 2009

Children Of The Corn

Welcome to the machine - Pink Floyd's Animals comes to life at the local supermarket.


When it comes to farms and agriculture, I know close to zip about the subject. I am a product of a suburban and urban environment and have no affinity for growing things. There are millions of other people better at it than me and I can accept that. Today's movie that we went to see, the documentary Food Inc., was a revelation due to my ignorance on the subject (outside of what my wife tells me, she is well versed in this subject).

Food Inc. is a muckraking documentary by Robert Kenner that's done in the style of the famous Michael Moore docs that interview and follow people around whose story illustrates the points being made. From a cinematic viewpoint, Food Inc is well made. There are chapter headings to each segment to let you know where you're at in the story, a good mix of interview footage, stock footage and computer animations to make its presentation palpable. Editing keeps things moving at a nice clip to avoid dwelling on one item too long. And nicely scouted interview subjects such as the guy who wrote the book Fast Food Nation and a small level conscientious farmer who eloquently explains his place in the farming paradigm.

And like any good muckraker, Food Inc names as many names as possible in showing how a handful of major corporations have taken over the food supply for the entire country. Corporations own the patents on the very seeds that are used to grow crops, control the market place to keep farmers in debt and employ a militia of lawyers to quiet any public detractors. Despite signs that the current system is causing sickened consumers and unsafe workplaces, Food Inc. illustrates how the system is protected by money and Government power to prevent change. And that the system has been streamlined to treat both animals, workers and consumers alike as purely product or statistics. A system that is based heavily on corn of all things. A system that the movie asserts does not want to give Americans the information needed to make informed decisions regarding food supply and consumption.

Smartly the movie tries to be a little evenhanded while still pushing its change-the-world-one-meal-at-a-time agenda. Just a little though, as the main thrust of the story is a conspiracy between suits and people in power making as much money as they can with no concern for the consequences on others. My favorite part was when it followed the food choices of a lower middle class family whose main provider is a truck driver. They can't afford organic food because it is priced higher than government subsidized foods that are less healthy. For the price of a small bit of organic food you can feed your entire family on fast food.

Director Kenner's style isn't as confrontational or hyperbolic as say Michael Moore's, which makes his film a bit more persuasive.

Regardless of if Food Inc's point of view on the subject is accepted whole or not, the film nonetheless presents a compelling argument and effectively draws attention to a story that is either ignored or repressed from public discussion. The film's self comparison to my all time favorite book Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is dead on, I was thinking about the book for much of the film. It's sad to see the lessons learned from that classic book completely erased by time and greed. At it's best Food Inc. will have you cringing in disbelief at what you're seeing. At the very least, the movie gives, ahem, food for thought.

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