Review of Food Inc. By Robert Kenner
When I read Michael Pollan's book Omnivore's Dilemma, I knew that a documentary on this subject was sure to follow. No matter how well the author was able to describe what he saw and discovered as he researched his book, I wanted to follow in his footsteps. This film does an excellent job of putting images behind such books as Omnivore's Dilemma, Fast Food Nation, and Skinny BItch.
The film touches on a number of important topics: The industrialization of food, inhumane treatment of animals, overuse of corn, health risks of meat factories, environmental impact of food production, lack of government oversight, obesity, organic food, genetically engineered seeds. There is so much to cover that no one topic gets the thorough examination that it deserves. The filmmakers spend even less time on discussing possible solutions. Note to some enterprising producer: there is enough material here for a four or five part series.
What the film lacks in depth it makes up for in visuals and presentation. From the opening credits you get the sense that a lot of time and effort went into the making of this film. The two main narrators/interviewees are Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, author of the book Fast Food Nation and a co-producer of the film. It was their words that inspired the film, so it only makes sense that they be the ones to tell the story.
The film uses a mixture of interviews, archival footage, hidden camera video, and aerial photography to condense a complex topic into an easy to assimilate 93 minute film. But having read the books I would have liked to have seen more. A lot of what was described in the books was missing in the film, especially the inhumane treatment of animals. It's too bad that the filmmakers were unable to interview anyone from the big corporations that run the food factories. I would have loved to hear what they had to say. Unfortunately, not only did they decline to be interviewed, but they blocked the filmmakers efforts at every opportunity. One of the stronger parts of the film concerned the efforts of Monsanto to intimidate and threaten anyone who tried to challenge them on their seed patents.
I was glad to see that the filmmakers decided to interview Joe Salatin, owner of Polyface Farms. Michael Pollan goes into great detail on how Polyface is the ideal example of how a farm should work. But here again time restraints prevented the whole story of Polyface from being told.
This film is sure to be seen by a wide audience, which is good. The more people know about where their food comes from the more likelihood there will be a demand for change. For a more an in depth look at the subject, I recommend reading any or all of the books mentioned in this post.