Food, Inc. (Magnolia Pictures, PG)

film_food-inc_sm.jpgThe way the food industry works in America is making animals suffer, farmers poor, corporations rich, and everyone sick and fat.

 

 

 

 

 

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Michael Pollan, author of the bestselling books The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, spoke at the St. Louis County Library a few weeks ago, and when the issue of changing the legislature regarding food laws and the FDA’s shenanigans came up, he said that President Obama has said to "show [Obama] the movement"; in other words, to make it to where he can’t rightfully ignore it anymore, and therefore has to do something about it.

Well, here’s the movement. Food, Inc., Robert Kenner’s new documentary on the American food industry’s industrialization, and all of the human and animal suffering that comes with it, is hard to ignore. It follows very closely in the footsteps of Pollan’s aforementioned books as well as Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation (it’s no coincidence that Pollan and Schlosser are featured in the movie as talking heads), Jane Goodall’s Harvest for Hope, and to some degree Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, though Food, Inc. is much more sober than Spurlock’s work.

The thesis of Food, Inc. is pretty much as follows: The way the food industry works in America is making animals suffer, farmers poor, corporations rich, and everyone sick and fat. It sounds from the premise that the film would take a strongly pro-vegetarian, anti-Republican slant, but it doesn’t really; though I kind of doubt the people who most need to see this movie will actually see it, I have a hard time imagining anyone who does see it disliking it (aside from those with very short attention spans, who quit paying attention when they find out there’s no cussing or gunplay) or coming up with a truthful argument against its points. Where most books and films of this sort of the past are of the PETA-screed variety, most of Food, Inc. is more concerned with the human effect—not that the film doesn’t care about animal welfare, but its explorations of the real-life effects both of the spread diseases like E. coli and just how so much processed food affects our weight, plus why it costs less to buy a hamburger at McDonald’s than broccoli at the grocery store, is nothing short of startling. And that’s failing to mention the film’s exploration of the treatment of lower-level human employees in slaughterhouses, and the way the government treats non-corporate farmers.

I’m inclined to regurgitate facts from the film because so many of them are interesting/appalling (30% of America’s land is planted with corn? And this corn finds its way into what?), but really, you’d be much better served by just going out and seeing the movie, as it provides an endless stream of them. And regarding that movement, despite getting a pretty limited release, so far Food, Inc. is doing quite well; its per-screen average its opening weekend was $20,171, as compared to that of the number one movie in the country at the time, The Hangover, which made an average of $9,775 per screen the same weekend. | Pete Timmermann

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