It appears the battle over the minds of America's food shoppers will be waged in the cinema. It started with the 2004 hit "Super Size Me," which documented Morgan Spurlock's 30 days of McDonald's gluttony. The film, combined with the bestselling book Fast Food Nation, opened the eyes of many Americans to the cheap, processed foods low-wage workers were handing us through little drive-thru windows. Then came "Food, Inc.," which dove deep into the political and corporate environment that brings us most of our food. Each of these films, and the books on which they were based, played an important part in uncovering aspects of the food system that had been previously hidden.
We all figured that eventually, the food and biotech companies would get smart and fight back with its own installment in the conversation. "Farmland" appears to be that installment, and its funding structure is certainly raising some eyebrows. Film funders the United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance -- a PR front group for agribusinesses like Monsanto and the National Pork Board -- scored a huge Hollywood documentary filmmaker, Academy Award-winner James Moll, to direct "Farmland." Overall, the film is a sweeping yet personal look at five American farmers and their diverse struggles, triumphs, views, and methods. It's worth watching. But as one critic put it, it comes off as a syrupy, slickly produced infomercial for Big Ag that is long on the personal narratives and short on the systems thinking necessary to make change in our food chain.
Check out my two posts on the subject, posted over at TakePart:
Is This Documentary the Ag Industry's Answer to 'Food, Inc.'?
Ag Group Fires Back at Critics of 'Farmland'
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