Combustible Celluloid
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With: Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin, Barbara Kowalcyk, Gary Hirschberg
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Robert Kenner
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic material and disturbing images
Running Time: 94
Date: 09/07/2008

Food, Inc. (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

How Not to Eat

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I can't think of a more urgent, day-by-day issue for a feature documentary than food. Directed by Robert Kenner, Food, Inc. plays a bit like a collection of greatest hits from Super Size Me, Fast Food Nation and King Corn. But the film's bright, cheerful tone, colorful graphics and bite-sized snippets will hopefully appeal to larger crowd, thereby spreading this vital information to new areas.

In Food, Inc. we meet an organic farmer who raises healthy, grass-fed cattle (rather than the more common, corporate corn-fed cattle). He refuses to sell his goods on a Wal-Mart scale and is perfectly happy running a small farmer's market in his own community. We also meet Gary Hirschberg, the man behind Stonyfield organic yogurt, who is thrilled that Wal-Mart has agreed to sell his product. (He argues that he wants to be a Goliath fighting a Goliath.) Another farmer insists on growing regular soybeans, but is constantly threatened by a huge corporation that holds the patent for genetically altered soybeans.

Most heartbreakingly, we meet Barbara Kowalcyk, whose 2-1/2 year old son went from being healthy to dead in a matter of days after eating a hamburger tainted with E. coli. She has since become a food safety advocate, traveling from office to office to meet with politicians and ask for their help. Oddly, she's not allowed to talk about the food item in question, or she can be sued.

That's the type of law currently in place protecting the food corporations and not the consumer. The main theme of Food, Inc., for the most part has to do with the second part of its title, the "incorporated" part. What looks like a lot of variety in the supermarket is actually controlled and manufactured by only a few companies, and they do their best to hide this information. Like the making of hot dogs, the corporations deliberately want us not to ask questions or think about where our food comes from.

The movie tries to leave off on a positive note, though it will undoubtedly be a long, hard road to get some of these policies changed. Either way, it's better to know these issues exist than to blithely continue eating in ignorance. The movie's website has more information. Magnolia's 2009 DVD release comes with 37 minutes of deleted scenes, celebrity public service announcements, a Nightline segment and other educational extras. There are also trailers for this and other Magnolia releases.

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