Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. is a documentary that connects with people in a visceral way. This gut-reaction to the film is achieved through the use of disturbing images (i.e. pigs being slaughtered on the killing floor), valuable insights from critics of the food industry, and demonstrations of alternative ways of producing food. Watching the documentary, I was reminded of something Upton Sinclair said after his book, The Jungle, had been released. Mainly, "I aimed for the public's heart, and by accident hit it in the stomach instead." Though Sinclair was aiming for the heart, the makers of Food, Inc. seem to have been successful in hitting both the heart and the stomach. The way I see it, the primary point of the film is to get people to think carefully about the ways they are consuming food.

The makers of Food, Inc. tried to include various points of view in the film, but most of the large corporations this film critiques refused to be interviewed and, hence, their voice was not heard. That said, though it seems like the creators of Food, Inc. attempted to strike somewhat of a balance of perspective with the film (authors are interviewed, personal stories are shared, alternative farming methods are unveiled), they are not subtle about having an agenda and I think they arrive at those benchmarks successfully. Along those lines, the way they went about achieving this balance seemed a bit formulaic. Documentaries released on a large-scale seem to have a recipe for success that contains specific ingredients. For example, since hearing from experts gets old after a while, documentary film-makers always seem to include a few heartfelt testimonials from everyday, American people. This is not to say these personal stories aren't real or touching; they usually are, but they are often presented in a calculated manner designed to evoke some sort of emotion from the audience. In the way documentaries are created, I'm not sure the makers of Food, Inc. bring anything new to the table.

I think this documentary did a nice job of empowering ordinary citizens to pay more attention to what they are eating. Though some of the clips and stories from Food, Inc. are incredibly disturbing, a thread of hope runs through the film. For instance, I remember someone saying that each person gets three votes a day (one for every meal) to affect the way food is produced in the world today. That meant something to me and I appreciate how the element of hope was captured in this film.

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