Monday, December 14, 2009

Film Review by Meghan Giglio

Film Review
By Meghan Giglio

I remember years ago my mom telling me of the days she used to go to the chicken market with her mom to buy fresh chicken for dinner. She said the chickens would be in coups and you would pick out your chicken (I imagine similar to lobsters in a tank when dining at a fancy seafood restaurant). When the best looking chicken was picked, my mom said the butcher would grab it, chop the chicken’s head off, clean it, package it and off you went. Yet, my mom’s FAVORITE part was every so often, the chicken, now headless, would sometimes manage to wriggle from the butcher’s grasp and run around. She thought this was hysterical. I on the other hand, was a bit mortified.

After watching Food, Inc., a documentary dispelling where our food comes from, I have learned that presently our food travels on average of about 1,500 miles from place of origin to our table. That’s quite a change. So much in fact one of the first shocking statements Food, Inc., starts with is how the way our food is processed today has changed more in the last 50 years than in the past 10,000 years.

Food, Inc. states early on that even if you’ve made a conscious choice to avoid fast food, an industry debated for years, fast food hasn’t avoided you. The fast food we get in the little window at the drive thru is produced on the same mentality as the ever fresh tomatoes piled high in bins and the stacked meat and poultry lined on the back walls of our grocery stores. Food wasn’t always this similar. As the slogan on the front of the Food, Inc.’s DVD box exclaims, “You’ll never look at dinner the same way again.”

That said, I’m sure there are many people who have heard of Food Inc, but would rather keep his or her head buried in the sand, “So long as it doesn’t kill me, I don’t care.” But that’s the thing, food has killed—many. E. coli, salmonella, obesity and diabetes are all explained consequences within Food, Inc. However, the biggest part to remember when thinking of viewing this film is its intent is not to scare us away from our food, but to make us aware of our food; where it comes from, and how we can change the Food Industry.

Food, Inc. is directed and produced by Robert Kenner. He weaves this story with the help of two well known and knowledgeable subjects, Michael Pollen, author of Omnivores Dilemma and Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation. Each author helps narrate the unveiling of the Food Industry. They explain how the fast food mentality was revolutionized by the McDonald Brothers back in the 1930’s; assembly lines were brought back to the kitchen like a factory. Today, 4 meat distributors control 80% of our meat.

Food, Inc. is a visually stimulating documentary luring you right from the start with alluding image labels on our food, accompanied by sweet, chiming music. These images represent the happy fa├žade the food industry has used to continue the idea that our food comes from a friendly farm in Iowa where pigs roll in mud with glee and cows munch grass until full. A camera winds sedately through our grocery store isles suggesting diversity, selection, and like the calm before the storm, these happy images dissolve. Dark, sinister conveyor belts now move our not so happy livestock toward a place looking more like the mouth of hell; the slaughter factories. Once farms, now factories.

I will warn, this film is not the best candidate for good ol’ fashioned family fun nor would I suggest it on a first date, however as Michael Pollen says early on, “The idea that you would need to write a book telling people where our food comes from is just a sign of how far removed we’ve become.” I first ask, why wouldn’t we want to know? But more importantly, why DON’T we know? Food, Inc. points out, because we’ve never asked, stating, “The industry doesn’t want you to know because if you did you may not want to eat it.”

Now from a film standpoint, of course all films, be it documentaries or narrative fictions are still subjective. One should always keep in mind to take a film’s contents with a grain of salt. Perspectives are held and what the filmmakers want us to know is told through shot selection and edit process.

That said, I don’t believe Food, Inc’s purpose is to just bash the food industry and hope the public doesn’t eat again. The film’s running theme is our right to know as consumers and demanding change. This is important to know because as Food, Inc.’s story unravels with beautiful interweaving shots of corn fields in Iowa to shocking footage of feces filled grow houses throughout the south, we should be demanding change.

As Food, Inc. delivers its questions, it layers its answers successfully. There are plenty of first account interviews given by science experts, grow house farmers and undocumented workers all juxtaposed with shot images and archival footage. For example, Food, Inc. reminds its viewers of past and not so past, food poison outbreaks by showing news anchors covering stories from 1993 to 2007. Remember E. coli outbreaks in our meat and spinach? The salmonella in our tomatoes and peanut butter? Food, Inc. helps to show how one has absolutely EVERYTHING to do with the other.

With all the shocking facts Food, Inc. states about the food industry, it’s always good to question the validity and sources. I did at times wonder where subjects have been getting certain stated facts and numbers, but that doesn’t mean I discredit it. They all make sense. However, an image of a chicken, belly up, panting for breath in an over stuffed, confined grow house is something I don’t have to question. The images are disturbing. The images are real. The images speak volumes of what I thought I knew.

Beyond that, what Food Inc really wants us to realize is that the food industry is powerful, but only as powerful as the consumer dollar makes them. Food, Inc gives more than enough support and reason to purchase organic, wholesome and sustainable foods, free of growth hormones, preservatives and pesticides. Why wouldn’t we want to eat this? Ever wonder why chips cost more than carrots? This film has the answers. Farmer Troy Roush, Vice President of American Corn Grower’s Association says, “People need to start demanding good wholesome food from us and we’ll deliver, we promise. We’re very ingenious people, we’ll deliver.”