With the recent growing interest among Americans in food, nutrition,
and sustainability, a few films on the subject have popped up in the
last few years. One of the more earnest entries into this category is King Corn
, a feature documentary
about our largest crop and what two East Coast kids learn when they move to Iowa to farm their own acre of land.
The film begins with the two appealing friends, Ian and Curt, on their
home turf in Boston. After learning that their diet, like most
Americans,’ is largely made up of corn, and that corn products are in
pretty much everything they eat, they decide to find out more about
it. So they move to Iowa, to a small town where they coincidentally
both have family roots, to farm an acre of corn. Once in Iowa, they
enlist the neighbors to guide them in planting a bumper crop, and try
to follow the path of the corn they grow over the course of a year.
Unsurprisingly, they find that all is not hunky-dory in the world of
corn farming. From the government subsidies, to the genetically
modified seeds, to the chemical fertilizers, this is not the farming
their grandfathers knew. Each year, tens of millions of acres of corn
are processed into animal feed, starches, sweeteners, oils, and other
products. The corn Iowa farmers grow was not selected for taste or
nutrition - it was selected to be abundant.
Yet this is no indictment of corn farmers, the subsidy system, or even
the food industry. As the director himself has stated, “there is no
bogeyman” in the film. Ian and Curt clearly see their own family
histories intertwined with this corn, and the film takes a sympathetic
view to the farmers, past and present, seeking a better life for their
families by growing as much corn as possible. Even Earl Butz,
Secretary of Agriculture under President Nixon and one of those
responsible for the explosive growth of corn and all its unhealthy
by-products, receives gentle treatment in his interview with the boys.
King Corn issues no condemnations, but neither does it offer
solutions. Instead, it is a meditation on the history of American
agriculture as well as a look at one of the culprits behind the growing
pandemics of obesity and diabetes. It is beautifully shot and well
edited, with healthy doses of humor. Above all, it encourages us to
take a second look at what we eat and what we grow.
- Johanna Wilkie
To find out more about the film, please visit http://kingcorn.net/
King Corn was recently screened at the
California Endowment’s Center for Healthy Communities. To learn more about the Endowment and Center’s Mission for Building Healthy Communities, visit their website at: http://www.calendow.org/