Monday, April 19, 2010

King Corn: A Quick Movie Review

Ian Cheney (left) and Curt Ellis 
taste their harvest in Greene, Iowa.
Photo by Sam Cullman
I added King Corn to my Netflix queue months ago and got it in the mail in early 2010 but just got around to watching it this weekend.  It's the fourth documentary I've watched about food and although I'd read much of the information before, it was still very alarming to watch the story unfold in this film.  


In short, King Corn is about two guys who set out on a mission to find some answers to the looming questions about America's deteriorating health.  They lease an acre of land, plant some corn, and get to the heart of the issue: the farm bill.


If you've ever wondered why American's eat the way we eat (or why ethanol has made its way into our gas tanks or why cows don't graze on grass anymore), the farm bill is probably the closest thing to an answer as we'll ever come.  Once meant to basically act as insurance to our nation's most vulnerable farmers, it now serves the interests of big corporations like McDonald's and Coca-Cola more than the farmer or the average American.  This critical piece of legislation gets revised every five years or so, which is good news for anyone wanting to influence its next iteration. 


In any case, filmmakers Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis did a pretty good job demonstrating not only what farming in America has become, but how exactly it is that corn has made its way into our DNA.  Now I love corn just as much as the next person out there (probably more actually), but as Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma puts it best: 

 “If you’re standing in a field in Iowa, there’s an immense amount of food being grown, none of it edible. The commodity corn, nobody can eat. It must be processed before we can eat it. It’s a raw material—it’s a feedstock for all these other processes. And the irony is that an Iowa farmer can no longer feed himself.” 
God love corn on the cob, but we must rise up against this "commodity corn" that becomes our high fructose corn syrup and animal feed!  My only criticism of King Corn is probably the same criticism as I have for most documentaries on the topic... its a little to soft-spoken for my taste.  Ian and Curt discover all the bad things that their corn will become when they go to sell their harvest.  But they don't really advocate that anyone change their ways... at least not overtly.  


Overall, From Seed to Stomach gives King Corn a 4 Seed Rating.  While this film isn't as in-your-face as I'd like it to be, it sheds light on a very important facet of American culture.  It's all about awareness, right?


Other Documentaries about Food worth Watching: