October 14, 2007

King Corn: Review

I caught King Corn earlier today -- and highly, HIGHLY recommend you do too.

I was lucky enough to be at a special screening which was followed by a question and answer session with one of the two documentary's stars as well as the director and editor of the project (my question, and their answer, will be posted separately).

The movie begins with friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis getting a strand of their respective hairs tested in a lab. The result? A rather large amount of carbon in their bodies. The culprit? Corn.

It is made clear from the beginning that the problem is not corn on the cob. Rather, it's all the ubiquitous corn byproducts in the United States' food supply.

In just 88 minutes, we watch as Curtis and Ian travel from Boston to Greene, Iowa (where, coincidentally, both their great grandfathers' once lived) in early January of this year to plant their own acre of corn.

As the months roll on, the agricultural dynamic duo begins to ponder -- and investigate -- where the genetically modified corn they are growing -- none of which is edible in its natural state -- will end up.

The answers aren't pretty: cattle feedlots, soda, bread, frying oil, cookies, soups, pasta sauce.... the list goes on!

Sprinkled throughout the documentary is commentary from Michael Pollan (who I asked to participate in our "Speaking With..." section a few months back but declined via his assistant, due to too many commitments) and Harvard's Walter Willett.

Both experts make it clear that the surplus of corn in the United States is behind many severe problems, ranging from rising obesity rates to the deplorable downfall of small farms.

King Corn also teaches a valuable lesson on the history of agriculture in this country, explaining how farmers went from originally being paid NOT to over-produce to today's record-shattering crop numbers (each acre of corn contains 31,000 kernels!)

Rather than write a long post covering the important issues -- and dishing out some eyebrow-raising statistics shown -- in the film, I will blog about King Corn throughout the week to give it the coverage I feel it deserves.

If it's playing at any of your local theaters, do not miss out! Dates and locations are below:

October 19 -- Washington, DC & Boston, MA

October 26 -- Los Angeles, CA

November 2 -- San Francisco & Berkeley, CA

November 9 -- Austin, TX

November 9 - 15 -- Chicago, IL

November 11 -- Pleasantville, NY

November 21 -- Pleasantville, NY

December 7 -- St. Louis, MO

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