Food, Inc.

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Food, Inc.
A cow with a barcode printed on its side. The tagline reads "YOU'LL NEVER LOOK AT DINNER, THE SAME WAY."
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Kenner
Written by
  • Robert Kenner
  • Elise Pearlstein
  • Kim Roberts
Produced by
  • Robert Kenner
  • Elise Pearlstein
Starring
Edited byKim Roberts
Music byMark Adler
Production
companies
Distributed byMagnolia Pictures
Release dates
  • September 7, 2008 (2008-09-07) (TIFF)
  • June 12, 2009 (2009-06-12) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$1 million[3]
Box office$4.6 million[4]

Food, Inc. is a 2008 American documentary film directed by Robert Kenner[1] and narrated by Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser.[5][6] It examines corporate farming in the United States, concluding that agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy in a way that is environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees. The film received positive reviews and was nominated for several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Summary[edit]

The film examines the modern food industry, and raises alarms about both the industrial production of meat (chicken, beef, and pork) and the modern methods used to grow grains and vegetables (primarily corn and soybeans). It discusses the dominance of the American food market by a handful of huge corporations, which work to keep consumers from being aware of how their food is produced and are largely successful in their efforts to avoid such things as stronger food safety laws, the unionization of their workers, and additional food labeling regulations. These companies promote unhealthy food consumption habits among the American public and then supply cheap, inadequately safety-tested, increasingly genetically-modified food that is produced and transported using methods that exploit livestock, employees, farmers, and the environment and use large amounts of petroleum products.[1][7] Eating organic, locally-grown food that is in season and reading product labels are offered as solutions, and the rapid growth of the organic food industry seen as providing hope for the future.

Interviewees[edit]

Production[edit]

Director Kenner spent three years producing the film.[8][9] He claims he spent a large amount of his budget on legal fees to try to protect himself against lawsuits from industrial food producers, pesticide and fertilizer manufacturers, and other companies of which the film is critical.[8] Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan, who both appear in the film as interview subjects, are credited as "Co-Producer" and "Special Consultant", respectively.

An extensive marketing campaign was undertaken to promote the film. Stonyfield Farm, an organic yogurt maker located in New Hampshire whose CEO is featured in the film, promoted the film by printing information about it on the foil lids of 10 million cups of yogurt in June 2009.[10][11]

A companion book of the same name was released in May 2009.[6][12][13]

Release[edit]

After premiering at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, the film was shown as a preview at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri, in February 2009.[14] It also screened at several film festivals in the spring before opening commercially in the United States on June 12, 2009.[7][15] The film earned $61,400 from three theaters (in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco) its opening weekend.[16] On June 19, it expanded to an additional 51 theaters in large cities in the U.S. and Canada,[7][13][15][17][18] and it made an additional $280,000 its second weekend.[17]

The film was initially set to be released in the United Kingdom in the summer of 2009,[19] but its release in the country was postponed until 12 February 2010.[20]

Response[edit]

The filmmakers' requests to interview representatives from such food giants as Monsanto Company, Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, and Perdue Farms were declined.[15][21][22] Monsanto said it invited the filmmakers to a producers' trade show,[23] but the filmmakers claimed they were denied press credentials at the event and were not permitted to attend. The company established a website to respond to the film's claims about their products and actions.[1][22][24] An alliance of food production companies (led by the American Meat Institute) also created a website (SafeFoodInc.org) to respond to the claims made in the film.[7][13][21][25] Cargill told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the company welcomed "differing viewpoints on how global agriculture can affordably nourish the world while minimizing environmental impact, ensuring food safety, guaranteeing food accessibility and providing meaningful work in agricultural communities", but criticized the film's "'one-size-fits-all' answers to a task as complex as nourishing 6 billion people who are so disparately situated across the world."[26]

Fast-food chain Chipotle offered free screenings of the film in July 2009 at various locations nationwide and stated it did things differently, which it hoped customers would appreciate after seeing the documentary.[27]

The film's director, Robert Kenner, denied attacking the current system of producing food, saying an interview with the SF Weekly that "All we want is transparency and a good conversation about these things", though he went on to say that "the whole system is made possible by government subsidies to a few huge crops like corn. It's a form of socialism that's making us sick."[28]

Critical reception[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 95% based on 114 reviews, with an average score of 7.77/10; the website's critical consensus reads: "An eye-opening expose of the modern food industry, Food, Inc. is both fascinating and terrifying, and essential viewing for any health-conscious citizen."[29] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100 based on reviews from 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[30]

The Staten Island Advance called the film "excellent" and "sobering", concluding: "Documentaries work when they illuminate, when they alter how we think, which renders Food, Inc. a solid success, and a must-see."[31] The Toronto Sun called it "terrifying" and "frankly riveting".[18] The San Francisco Examiner was equally positive, calling the film "visually stylish" and "One of the year’s most important films".[32] The paper called the film's approach to its controversial subject matter "a dispassionate appeal to common sense" and applauded its "painstaking research and thoughtful, evenhanded commentary".[32] The Environmental Blog sympathized with the film's message and urged viewers to "vote to change this system".[33]

The Los Angeles Times praised 'the film's cinematography, and called it "eloquent" and "essential viewing."[34] The Montreal Gazette noted that, despite the film's focus on American food manufacture, it is worth viewing by anyone living in a country in which large-scale food production occurs.[6] The paper's reviewer declared the film a "must-see", but also cautioned that some of the scenes are "not for the faint of heart".[6]

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that earlier documentaries and books had examined similar issues, but still deemed the film to be worth seeing: "The food-conglomerate angle was covered in a less-ambitious documentary called King Corn, and a more-ambitious documentary called The Corporation touched on the menace of the multinationals; but this one hits the sweet spot, and it does it with style."[35] The review concluded that the most powerful portion of the film focused on Monsanto's pursuit of legal action against farmers accused of saving and reselling or replanting Monsanto’s patented seed in violation of a signed stewardship agreement and contract not to save and resell or replant seeds produced from crops grown from Monsanto seed.[24][35]

Some reviews were less positive. A commentator at Forbes magazine found the film compelling, but incomplete, writing that it "fails to address how we might feed the country—or world" using the sustainable agriculture model advocated by the filmmakers, nor does it address the critical issues of cost and access.[23] A reviewer for The Washington Times said the film was "hamstrung" because few corporate executives wished to be interviewed, although the reviewer agreed that the filmmakers were aiming for balance.[36]

Awards[edit]

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 82nd Academy Awards,[37] where it lost to The Cove, and for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 25th Independent Spirit Awards, where it lost to Anvil! The Story of Anvil. It tied for fourth place in the Best Documentary category at the 35th Seattle International Film Festival.[38]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Severson, Kim. "Eat, Drink, Think, Change." Archived December 5, 2017, at the Wayback Machine The New York Times. June 3, 2009.
  2. ^ "Food Inc. (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. January 13, 2010. Archived from the original on October 20, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  3. ^ Box Office Information for Food, Inc. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  4. ^ "Food, Inc." BoxOfficeMojo.com. February 27, 2010. Archived November 16, 2018, at the Wayback Machine Accessed 2009-02-27.
  5. ^ Biancolli, Amy. "Review: 'Food, Inc.' Not for the Squeamish." Archived June 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine San Francisco Chronicle. June 12, 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d Chesterman, Lesley. "A Film That Will Make You Think Before You Eat." Archived June 23, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Montreal Gazette. June 20, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d "New Film Offers Troubling View of US Food Industry." Associated Press. June 7, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Simmons, Krista. "What Really Goes Into the Bag: Behind the Movie 'Food, Inc.'." Archived June 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Los Angeles Times. June 7, 2009.
  9. ^ There is some dispute as to how long the film was in production. In another interview, director Robert Kenner claims the film took six years to make. See: Math, Mara. "The Right to Know About What We Eat." Archived June 16, 2009, at the Wayback Machine San Francisco Examiner. June 11, 2009.
  10. ^ "'Food, Inc.' Gets Promo on Yogurt Lids." Archived June 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine The Hollywood Reporter. June 11, 2009.
  11. ^ Marrero, Diana. "Sensenbrenner Cow Tax Fears Come Out of Thin Air." Archived January 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. June 13, 2009.
  12. ^ Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food Is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer—And What You Can Do About It. Karl Weber, ed. New York: PublicAffairs, 2009. ISBN 1-58648-694-2
  13. ^ a b c Levine, Allen. "Little Ag vs. Big Ag? Best Bet On Both." Archived March 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine St. Paul Pioneer Press. June 18, 2009.
  14. ^ "Food, Inc." True/False Film Festival. No date. Accessed 2009-07-31. Archived March 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ a b c Deardorff, Julie. "Food, Inc.: How Factory Farming Affects You." Archived June 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Chicago Tribune. June 12, 2009.
  16. ^ "Good Buzz Wins Out As 'Hangover,' 'Up' Dominate Box Office Once Again." Archived June 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Los Angeles Times. June 14, 2009; Germain, David. "'Hangover' Hangs On As No. 1 Movie With $33.4M." Archived May 13, 2022, at the Wayback Machine Associated Press. June 14, 2009.
  17. ^ a b Kilday, Gregg. "'Proposal' Accepted at the Box Office." Archived January 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine The Hollywood Reporter. June 21, 2009.
  18. ^ a b Braun, Liz. "You'll Choke On This Info." Archived June 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Toronto Sun. June 19, 2009.
  19. ^ Rayner, Jay. "Food Is the New Fur for the Celebrity With a Conscience." Archived March 13, 2017, at the Wayback Machine The Observer. June 14, 2009.
  20. ^ "UK Film release schedule - past, present and future". www.launchingfilms.com. 2009. Archived from the original on December 31, 2010. Retrieved November 10, 2009.
  21. ^ a b Kearney, Christine. "Film Aims to Expose Dangers in U.S. Food Industry." Archived February 12, 2021, at the Wayback Machine Reuters. June 9, 2009.
  22. ^ a b Gustin, Georgina. "'Food, Inc.' Chews Up Monsanto, Agribusiness Cousins."[permanent dead link] St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 26, 2009.
  23. ^ a b Ruiz, Rebecca. "What Food Activists Ignore." Archived October 16, 2017, at the Wayback Machine Forbes. June 11, 2009.
  24. ^ a b Monsanto site about the movie Food, Inc. Archived November 18, 2014, at the Wayback Machine Accessed 2009-06-07.
  25. ^ "Web Site Takes on 'Food Inc'." Pork Magazine. June 12, 2009 Archived June 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine; Levin, Ann. "'Food Inc.' Has Sickening View of Food Industry."[permanent dead link] Associated Press. June 21, 2009.
  26. ^ "Cargill's Response to 'Food Inc.'." Archived February 1, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Minneapolis Star Tribune. June 20, 2009.
  27. ^ "Free Food – Food, Inc., That Is". Zagat.com. July 9, 2009. Archived from the original on October 7, 2017. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  28. ^ Birdsall, John. "A Conversation with 'Food, Inc.' Director Robert Kenner." Archived June 16, 2009, at the Wayback Machine San Francisco Weekly. June 12, 2009.
  29. ^ "Food, Inc. (2009)" RottenTomatoes.com Archived February 11, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Accessed 2010-11-30.
  30. ^ "Food, Inc." Metacritic.com No date. Archived May 13, 2022, at the Wayback Machine Accessed 2009-11-19.
  31. ^ Hill, Todd. "'Food, Inc.,' 'Moon' Top This Week's Alternatives to Mainstream Movies." Archived June 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Staten Island Advance. June 12, 2009.
  32. ^ a b "Drake, Rossiter. "Here's Why Food Is Factory Fresh." San Francisco Examiner. June 12, 2009". Archived from the original on June 14, 2009. Retrieved June 13, 2009.
  33. ^ Food Inc Review Archived October 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine - The Environmental Blog
  34. ^ "Goldstein, Gary. "Movie Review: 'Food, Inc.'" Los Angeles Times. June 12, 2009". Archived from the original on June 16, 2009. Retrieved June 13, 2009.
  35. ^ a b Williams, Joe. "'Food, Inc.'" Archived July 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 26, 2009.
  36. ^ Bunch, Sonny. "Moore Worry Haunts Cinema." Archived June 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine The Washington Times. June 19, 2009.
  37. ^ "The Canadian Press: List of 82nd annual Academy Award nominations". Archived from the original on February 6, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  38. ^ Kilday, Gregg. "Seattle Fest Announces Winners." Archived June 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine The Hollywood Reporter. June 14, 2009.
  39. ^ "Taste the Waste at Oneworld.cz". Oneworld.cz. Archived from the original on December 1, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2014.

External links[edit]