There's a remarkable amount of information here, and filmmaker Kenner assembles with clarity, building our outrage as he goes. We see how the way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in all of human history before that, and yet we delude ourselves with the "pastoral fantasy" that what we consume still comes from farms. The reality is that food is a mega-industry: they're factories, not farms, and it's a product, not a living chicken.
It's pretty shocking to see how we're fed an illusion of diversity even though almost everything comes from a handful of corporations that are cleverly rearranging corn products. Of course, the industry doesn't want us to know this, so they've become expert myth-spinners, creating laws that keep us from finding out about hideously huge farms, enormous assembly lines and the real reasons for outbreaks of E coli and salmonella (blame giant farms and assembly lines). This is a skewed system in which a double cheeseburger is cheaper than a head of broccoli.
Specific stories about Tyson (the world's biggest meat supplier) and Monsanto (which has ruthlessly patented nature for profit) are utterly chilling. And the film also addresses labelling, how increased sugar content undermines public health and the effect of big industry on trade, working conditions and immigration. In short: someone has to pay the price for our cheap food.
Kenner also assembles a terrific collection of people on camera, including Fast Food Nation author Schlosser, rebel farmer Salatin and food safety advocate Kowalcyk. Besides presenting facts, each takes a personal approach, reminding us that this is something that affects us every day. And Kenner includes some witty animation, gorgeous scenery and deeply unsettling footage to keep us glued to the screen.
This is a seriously important film, exploring many of the same issues as Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story. The main question is whether well-fed people would rather have cheap food than a fair society. And if Americans feel powerless to get their government to take action after decades of letting the industry avoid responsibility, they need to remember that this level of control can be broken: just ask Big Tobacco.
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 21st April 2010
Box Office USA: $4.2M
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Production compaines: Magnolia Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 102 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 7.9 / 10
Director: Robert Kenner
Producer: Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein
Screenwriter: Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein, Kim Roberts
Starring: Michael Pollan as Himself, Eric Schlosser as Himself
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