Ready or not, the food industry is getting its close-up — and it’s not very flattering. “Supersize Me” and “Fast Food Nation” made a splash a couple years ago. Now a new crop of filmmakers are focusing their cameras on the behind-the-scenes industrial processes that make the American diet, and the unhealthy consequences that, they claim, come as a result.
Two years ago, "King Corn" followed two college friends as they tracked the astounding growth of the corn industry. Although it only saw limited release, the film struck a nerve with foodies and mainstream viewers alike who were compelled by its respectful-yet-critical approach to the issue. Fast-forward to this month, and you’ve got two more films set to shake things up. There’s “The End of the Line”, a documentary narrated by Ted Danson that looks at the depletion of the world’s fish stocks and the need for sustainable fishing practices. And set to release this Friday in New York and Los Angeles is “Food Inc.”, another documentary that’s already stirring controversy (click here for a trade association website set up to refute the movie's claims) for its critical take on our industrial food system.
Food industry insiders may very well dismiss “Food Inc.” and other movies like it as wrongheaded or elitist — but that would be unwise. The arguments in these are often clear, compelling, and backed with thorough research. And they make a lot of sense to a lot of people. “Food Inc.” includes testimony from authors Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, as well as high-profile farmer Joel Salatin and Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg. These are some of the most influential names in today’s health and sustainability movement. When they talk, people listen.
So rather than scoffing at films like these that take aim at supermarkets and the modern food system, retailers and manufacturers should go seem them and really consider what they have to say. You say you want to respond to the consumer? Well, here’s what they’re watching.