King Corn (film)

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King Corn
King corn.jpg
King Corn theatrical poster
Directed by Aaron Woolf
Produced by
Written by
  • Aaron Woolf
  • Ian Cheney
  • Curt Ellis
  • Jeffrey K. Miller
Music by
  • Simon Beins
  • Johnny Dydo
  • Sam Grossman
Distributed by Balcony Releasing
Release date
  • April 13, 2007 (2007-04-13) (Wisconsin Film Festival)
  • October 12, 2007 (2007-10-12) (United States)
Running time
88 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English

King Corn is a documentary film released in October 2007 that follows college friends Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis (directed by Aaron Woolf) as they move from Boston to Greene, Iowa to grow and farm an acre of corn. Coincidentally, the trip also takes them back to where both of their families have roots. In the process, Cheney and Ellis examine the role that the increasing production of corn has had for American society, spotlighting the role of government subsidies in encouraging the huge amount of corn grown. Furthermore, they trace the food economy back to the history of corn in America to identify the source of the foods.

The film shows how industrialization in corn has all but eliminated the image of the family farm, which is being replaced by larger industrial farms. Cheney and Ellis suggest that this trend reflects a larger industrialization of the North American food system. Indeed, almost all food in the grocery stores could be traced back to corn, either as corn syrup or as the animal feed. As was outlined in the film, decisions relating to which crops are grown and how they are grown are based on government manipulated economic considerations rather than their true economic, environmental, or social ramifications. This is demonstrated in the film by the production of high fructose corn syrup, an ingredient found in many cheap food products, including fast food. A study done at Princeton University found that the same amount of high fructose corn syrup consumed caused more of a weight gain in rats than regular table sugar. In fact, Cheney and Ellis realize that this production is what makes their generation the first with a diminished life expectancy compared to the previous. They identify that there is a correlation between the increasing obesity rate and the increasing production of corn syrup. With the new advancement and demand for corn, the traditional farming industry is being replaced by larger corporate farms. Throughout the film, the two college friends hope to increase awareness of the impending problem of the production of corn and its byproducts.

Critical reception[edit]

"King Corn" has received numerous critical reviews from The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other prominent media outlets. The film which has been deemed “a deceptively intelligent new entry in the regular-Joe documentary genre” by The Salon, was praised for its subtle criticism of the over production and industrialization of corn in America. Although the film is critical of certain aspects of the production of corn in Iowa such as one of its by-products, high fructose corn syrup, it still demonstrates a profound respect for those peoples who live and work in America’s Corn Belt. According to the Boston Globe, the film distinguishes itself from other documentaries for its informal eloquence and “unusual amount of warmth.” Even though the co-producers of the film offer a somewhat comedic and informal narrative throughout the movie, most reviews insist that Cheney and Ellis are still able to convey their critical message. The Washington Post said that the documentary ought to be a “required viewing by anyone planning to visit a supermarket, fast-food joint, of their own refrigerator.” [2]

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