Saturday, May 15, 2010

Documentary Movie Review: King Corn

Click Here to watch this film.

Click here for the guide to my review process and links to my other reviews.

It's in your hair. It's in almost every item on McDonald's Value Menu. It's on the wall of an Iowa museum. It's in fuel tanks of vehicles. It's in beer and liquor. It's in a hole in the side of a cow. It's in most products made by Coke, Pepsi and Seven Up. It's on the mind of politicians.

This film begins with the filmmakers having their hair analyzed. They find out their hair shows that their body has very high makeup of corn genetics. The idea that Corn could make up so much of a human's diet to be so clear genetically is intriguing. So the filmmakers set out to document 1 acre of a corn crop from preparation for planting seeds, to the point it enters your body to eventually become part of your hair.

Along the way however, the story becomes more about how Corn became so dominant in American society and the world. By the end of the film, you come to the conclusion that not only do two wrongs not make a right, but several wrongs repeatedly can be dangerous for our food supply.

This film continues to go back to farmers talking about how you cannot make money planting corn without participating in the government subsidies. Imagine how much money would be lost to the industry, and the level of the dominance of corn if “grow, baby, grow” wasn't the government push.

So modern corn is king, with not only subsidies, but a whole genetic property rights issue pushing up the issue of getting bigger and badder yield. The rest of the food industry soon followed suit.

An encounter at McDonald's sends the filmmakers hunting the cows. Cattle and Factory meat industries are examined as recipients of corn products as feed for farmed animals. The consensus is that the animals live in horrible conditions, and our food supply is tainted with pharmaceuticals for one reason. Corn is a cheap commodity, cheaper than the grasses and grains that the species that feed us are supposed to eat. So we feed animals a substance that they can't digest and pump them with medicine to quicken the process and allow them temporary relief.

The Beverage industry is the other shoe on the chopped off diabetes foot. High Fructose Corn Syrup is the sugar in almost anything you can eat or drink. America once again demands these products to be cheap, so Corn as a source of sugar is chosen. The problem? The empty calories often cause malfunctions in your metabolism, and ultimately Obesity and Diabetes is a result.

Soda pop and Hamburgers are the two biggest staples of American culture, so we literally have a nation poisoning itself through identity. How can this be? We find out through the Corn museum that corn is actually healthy in most varieties, however, the standard yellow corn that has taken over America lacks the nutrients that give most blue, red, and black corn their color. Instead, yellow corn is full of straight carbohydrates. So eat up America.

The journey ultimately leads to Dr. Earl Butz, former US head of Agriculture, who, in the 70's, whose policies “corrected” the US practice of subsidizing farmers to not grow food. The departure of limits on these subsidies opened the door to anyone willing to put some corn in the ground for a fast buck. It's my personal opinion that these policies led to the farming revolution of the major factory farming industries, and along with NAFTA and other free trade deals, has led to famine in other nations due to having to import corn from the US due to the subsidies causing price fixing putting their local farmers out of business.

When this film was over, I began to wonder what would happen if we instead chose to subsidize grass or hemp. While not guaranteed the massive yield of modern GMO, these crops can be grown easily and naturally and can inject some health into our food supply. I am not advocating the immediate switch from corn to alternatives, just merely stating that farmers should have some alternative available that will not harm society as much as the corn and soybean industry has.

Information: 3 stars – This film talks to those who are most affected by Corn and corn policies. Average people who have interest in the topic. Monsanto's monopoly over the seeds could have been examined more.

Source Documentation: 3 Stars – What you see is what you get. Great documentation on the filmmakers' families and on the subsidy policies of the US government, however, some stuff could use better explanation than just interviews.

Presentation Method: 4 Stars – We follow the filmmakers on a journey, one that would examine small Iowa farming community from their perspective,

Visuals/Sound: 4 Stars – Superb cinematography.

Solution, Constitution, or Pollution: 4 Stars – Solution. These filmmakers follow the money in corn, and even make an “acre” of difference at the end.

Overall Wake-Up-Ability: 4 Stars – While other films certainly display the dangers of Factory Farming and the centralization of food, this one certainly tugs at the heart strings when you follow the emotions of the filmmakers.