Sunday, July 5, 2009

Food, Inc.

"Food, Inc." is a visually effective documentary that's material is devastating but structure is weak. It seems a lot of food documentaries (well, actually, most modern documentaries) follow a pretty typical routine, and this film is just as uniform. It even rips off the end credits of "An Inconvenient Truth" which is not only uninspired, it also lessens the message that comes before it while it's trying to leave on a soaring note (complete with "This Land is Your Land"). But there are a score of good things here as well. It wrenchingly chronicles the business side of the food industry and how companies such as Monsanto are controlling farmers' seeds and such, as well as how low they've all stepped in order to make money. But if you want to get out of this vicious circle, you can't really, if you're on a small paycheck. As someone in the film observes, "You can get two burgers for this [pound of] broccoli." And why wouldn't people? It's cheaper.

It's also cheaper in quality. Oh, have you forgotten about E. Coli? Your food could have it (that is, if it should be recalled and hasn't). A young boy named Kevin ate a couple of hamburgers and died 12 days later as a result of hemorrhagic E. Coli. His mother has now become a food activist in his name, and has tried to pass Kevin's Law, which proposes to shut down any repeat recaller of meat. As far as I know, the company whose contaminated beef killed the boy has not apologized and the law has not been passed. It shows not only that food is extremely unsafe nowadays, but that companies don't care enough about their casualties. Not only that, but they also don't let people speak out, maintaining a pretty much totalitarian regime. They also have ties in the administrations of both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. In one case, I believe that the Bush-era food-safety person was previously tied up with the companies. That's now quite a common occurrence. It only stresses the point that the food industry is dominant force in the present day.

In order for this grim film to move forward, director Robert Kramer enlists two titans of food activism to present the facts: Eric Schlosser, author of the revealing book "Fast Food Nation," and Michael Pollan, author of "An Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History in Four Meals." As the two narrators/main interviewees, they set a dark, worried tone for the film, perhaps what it needed. "Food, Inc.," however, should have been a differently structured, since its material calls for something to match its groundbreaking power. I also think it had two different films within it: one about farmers and their troubles, and another about the state of our food. Perhaps they should have been separated. But altogether, "Food, Inc." is a moderately effective documentary showing that clean, safe, untouched food is hard to get these days, and if it means more money, corporations will keep it that way. B

1 comment:

aspergiansarah said...

I am NOT sitting through that. I still remember my mom dragging me to see "King Corn," and me sitting there seemingly 10 hours staring at corn, cows, and hamburgers. More likely I'd die from boredom then contaminated meat. I felt sorry for the cows though. For a GOOD documentary, watch "Autism- The Musical," with is powerful (if a bit voyeuristic.)