Food, Inc. (2008)
Directed by: Robert Kenner
Premise: A documentary about the food and agriculture industry, exploring how food production has changed from organic and local sources to synthetic, corporate mass manufacturing and how that change has impacted the quality of life in America.
What Works: Food, Inc. is extremely impressive filmmaking. This is a topic that can be divided into many, more specific, subjects such as animal cruelty, corporatism, public health, immigration, corruption, and regulation but Food, Inc. is smartly assembled, incorporating these areas but never getting bogged down in them. Instead, Food, Inc. collects these subjects and assembles them together like parts of an engine, using each part in the right proportion, to further the thesis of the film: that as food production has changed, it has also changed the culture. The film does not shy away from its agenda to convince the audience to make healthier choices and it is a better film for not trying to feign impartiality. However, a rather ingenious and mature element of Food Inc.’s argument is its resistance to the kinds of naïve anti-capitalist rhetoric that often distorts the topic. Food, Inc. suggests that change is to be found simultaneously outside from the consumer and inside from food producers who can make and market organic food that can compete with unhealthy food.
What Doesn’t: The only weakness of Food, Inc. is in the suggestions in the finale; earlier on, the film exposes how the poor are often trapped into buying unhealthy food but then it encourages viewers to purchase the more expensive organic food.
Bottom Line: Food, Inc. is a great activist documentary. The film is well made and smartly designed and manages to be frightening but also has a spark of optimism that makes it empowering.
Episode: #268 (December 13, 2009)