You’re Telling Me Hamburgers Are Bad?
By Robert Patrick
You know the dinner and a movie plan? How could it go wrong? The scenario is built around feeling entertained, free of worry, comforted by food, and the incessant coo of a lover. Fans of this particular romantic evening may want to avoid director Robert Kenner’s exploration of consumable items, however, unless slabs of meat being branded with E. Coli makes your date want to pucker up for a kiss. Ah yes, footage of a cow being plowed into by a forklift, driven by someone who has the vehicle control of Steve McQueen, is not a lovable filmic stalwart. Kenner’s film, despite the morbid jokes, does illuminate the food crisis in America, but the documentary isn’t going to win you any awards from your friends for picking it on a Friday night over a comedy with Seth Rogan. The humanitarian affair, reinforced by pillars of statistics and rolling pie charts, is the type of film that you need to see, perhaps on your own, to understand the corporate evil that is dwarfing the food industry.
Is evil a despicable word that is unjustly strung up by big balloons of yellow journalism? Big companies, no matter who is in charge, always seem to have that nefarious shadow bobbing over their heads. It is easy to call large corporations cat-stroking James Bond villains? Probably. Is this always true? Not likely. Here, in Kenner’s maddening look into the heart of America, we find that these food related corporations are looking pretty seedy – even reprehensible. Kenner makes good of his word, using a slew of talking heads, each one using their first hand experience with meat industries such as Tyson, to pierce the veil surrounding what goes into our food.
The subject of unsanitary food production has not, in our day in age, gone unnoticed. Books such as “Fast Food Nation”, whose author is featured predominately in Food, Inc., spoke of similar topics in his universally heralded book. Articles, lawsuits, news alerts, these things avalanche down with the speed of a falling anvil. “Super Size Me”, the film that made a celebrity out of Morgan Spurlock, even plugged its hands into the abyss of nauseating mass-marketed chains of food. So why do we need to rehash this sort of information? Why watch this specific film when others have covered the same issues? Because the individual stories, told here with warmth and sincerity, make you even more stirred over what is going on in this country than Food, Inc.’s predecessor’s have.
The footage in this film is often grotesque and will likely make you upset. Chickens crash into each other, clucking and falling into each other in dirty, poorly ventilated buildings. Cows crane their necks in agony, fall over, then continue to be pushed by machinery. Some of what you see is puttering film from a hidden camera. Animals are kicked and booted, repetitiously, without hesitation. All of this business, so methodic in its nature, is just like killing weeds for some of these people.
The film is cut into neat little segments, each highlighting a separate tier of America’s food dilemma. Kenner mostly takes his time talking about meat and poultry, however, and how the lack of sanitation is inhumane and without thought. The music in the documentary sounds like it was spliced from an unused Tim Burton soundtrack, as it whirls along creating hypertension for the movie’s audience. Sometimes, no matter how good the intentions, the score comes off a bit theatrical, making some scenes, which would work fine on their own, seem trite and over buffed.
Running at a tidy hour and a half, Food, Inc. wont make you feel oversaturated with information, but it will make you feel pleasantly knowledgeable about our country’s food – and may even reacquaint you with things you already knew. And though at times the redundant graphics look like something cooked up by the Discovery Channel, the movie seems marginally fresh at each corner.
Kenner does a nice job presenting factual information at a quick speed. There is, of course, a great deal of admiration I have for him. But this does not mean that without his wisdom I wouldn’t know that ordering Green Burrito at Carl’s Jr would make my cholesterol levels explode.