Warning: this film will make your next visit to the supermarket very fraught. Robert Kenner’s Academy Award-nominated documentary raises questions about what we eat, and where it comes from, ultimately looking at unveiling the hidden truths of modern food production.
Narrated by activists and investigative journalists Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma) this documentary covers vast territories from the complete industrialisation of farming and genetic ownership of crops, to concerns over governance and ever increasing corporate power. This is an issue film, so don’t expect objective musing. The filmmakers want their audiences to change their lifestyles and they aren’t afraid to use shock tactics.
There is always a fear with big issue films that viewers will be overwhelmed by the breadth of the problems and will, in the end, do nothing upon leaving the cinema, and in some ways Food Inc. falls into this trap by trying to cover too much. Factory farming, FDA inaction, corn monopoly, farming subsidies, health concerns, cost of healthy food, consumerism and advertising, seed ownership, genetically modified food, migrant working rights, the list goes on and while these issues all link into one another it is a lot to take in, in a short amount of time (94 mins).
It is, however, hard to ignore footage of chickens grown to monstrous commercial proportions, unable to stand; or the factory slaughterhouses that treat both their employees and products (animals) with inhuman detachment. Very personal accounts from Barbara Kowalcyk, whose two-year-old son, Kevin died from E.coli poisoning after eating a contaminated hamburger; and seed-cleaner Moe Parr, whose livelihood has been destroyed by agricultural giant Monsanto’s patenting practices – are poignant individual illustrations of the larger issues.
Food Inc. does what all good documentaries should; it makes you stop and think. This film is focused on America and its food industry and while it is easy to bury our heads in the sand and think of the problem as contained there, you have to wonder with Australian’s obesity statistics if we too don’t have an unhealthy food industry.