| Yesterday I went to see the most important movie of the year: Food, Inc. Now, that's a strong statement. Is it really the most important movie of the year? Let me put it this way. All movies and TV gives me migraines, so much so that I have not seen a single movie in 2 full years. That's how long it's been since there was a movie out that I thought would be so great that I should have a migraine headache for it. I didn't see The Garden, I didn't see King Corn, I didn't see The Future of Food... I didn't even see Slumdog Millionaire. But for Food, Inc, I decided it was worth shlepping my ass up to LA and getting a migraine that would last at least a day if not several. I bet you no one else can give Food, Inc that kind of endorsement, huh? Better yet? You don't even have to get a migraine for it. You can just watch it, free of head pain, nausea, or any other unpleasant side effects.
Why was it THAT important? No other film that I can name covers a global crisis of a basic human need in such a compelling, informative, and accurate way. This film is what I had hoped the movie version of Fast Food Nation would have been, except it's twice as good because it threw in The Omnivore's Dilemma too. Together, I consider those two books the Food Bible (old and new testaments, respectively), and now they are available in movie form for all of America to watch.
|Food, Inc. is narrated by Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan, with several appearances by Joel Salatin (and his cows, pigs, and chickens). Schlosser's investigative work prior to this film covers food safety and human rights within our food system, and both of those elements were included in the film. Pollan, on the other hand, exposed America to how much damn corn we were all eating, and covers the health and environmental impacts of our food system in his writing. That also made it into the film. I do hope Americans who see this in theaters take a moment to reflect on their movie popcorn and sodas to realize that they are AT THAT MOMENT eating and drinking corn.
Even for those of us who read, there's nothing quite like seeing the realities of the food system on the big screen. Everyone who's read Fast Food Nation recalls the line "There's shit in the meat" (a point that this movie mostly left out) but even that can't compare with seeing film footage of a 2 1/2 year old boy named Kevin only months before the shit in his meat killed him. Or with his mother and grandmother visiting Capitol Hill again, trying to pass "Kevin's Law," a simple law that allows the USDA to shut down plants after repeatedly finding foodborne pathogens in their meat.
Kevin's mom explains how her beautiful son went from healthy to dead in 12 days after eating a hamburger. Why do we have a country where people can die from eating a hamburger? And yet "Kevin's Law" - a law most people probably assume was in place decades ago - STILL cannot pass because meatpackers are more powerful than the millions of us who risk our lives by eating hamburgers each year.
Food, Inc does not say everything there is to say about food, but it drives home the most important points in a way that will hit people in the gut and hopefully make them want to learn more. Most of all, it exposes that food has changed over the last century and that a handful of powerful corporations control it. You think you're eating the same bread, meat, milk, etc, that your grandmother ate, but you are not. And the reason why you are not is because a few companies need to show growth each quarter and they do so at the expense of the environment, their employees, their suppliers or customers, and your health.
The only critique I can make of the film is its coverage of Industrial Organic. The founder of Stonyfield Farm yogurt is interviewed prominently in the film, and he gushes over the benefits of selling organics to Wal-mart. I'm not convinced. I'm not sure he's wrong - he does have a point. Yes, selling organic to Wal-mart means preventing the use of millions of pounds of pesticide and fertilizer, but does that make it OK? Or even good? I cringed as I saw all of the plastic disposable packaging of the yogurt containers. Perhaps they are recyclable somewhere, but not where I live - one reason I've switched to making my own yogurt in reusable glass jars.
I realize that many people can't make their own yogurt. The few minutes it takes me to do it is still too much for them. I understand. A family with a diabetic father is portrayed in the film eating their dinner at Burger King. They go to the grocery store and they want to eat well but even the broccoli is too expensive. And I get it that we live in a world in which many people choose Burger King over broccoli (or Wal-Mart over Whole Foods) because their option is that or starve. But I also don't accept that the answer is to sell organics to Wal-Mart. It might be an interim compromise, but the overall goal must be a living wage, healthy school lunches, and universal health care, among other things. If the family in the movie had decent health coverage, they would have had a few extra hundred bucks a month to spend on healthy food instead of prescription drugs.
However, that hardly detracts from the overall power of this movie and I still feel strongly that everyone should go see it and take all your friends and your entire families with you, especially if they are not yet hip to sustainable food!