Grab a bucket of KFC and a large Big Mac meal then stroll into a screening of Food Inc. and sit back and watch as your eyes recoil in horror and your stomach catches up with your brain, one vomit-flavoured convulsion at a time. The film kicks off with the alarming claim that our food habits have changed more in the last 50 years than in the last 1000 and things get worse from there. Like The Corporation and Fast Food Nation, Food Inc. carves its way into the cinematic cavities of the 100% Prime Beef guilt trip genre, offering a shocking exposé about the stuff we put in our mouths. We all know that fast food is bad, mmmkay, but director Robert Kenner sets his sights on the supermarket aisle where products as ordinary as tomatoes and cuts of boneless meat are put in the illuminating and uncomfortable context commonly known as ‘reality.’ Just about every carnivore on the planet will acknowledge that a good chicken drumstick equals all kinds of tasty, but watching footage of chicken farms – and we are told the ones we see in this film are of the better, cleanlier variety – equals all kinds of disturbing. Kenner gleans footage from a well cultivated crosshatch of experts including farmers, factory employees and food academics, whose interviews are interspersed with the names of corporations who have refused to speak on the record. The film is brazenly didactic, including captioned instructions before the final credits about how the audience can act as agents for change, but it has every reason to be preachy. The assertions of the filmmakers ring absolutely true: it does seem outrageous, for example, that a cheeseburger can cost less than a stick of broccoli. Similar to the conclusion of Fast Food Nation (the book) Food Inc. weaves enough optimism into the experience to give audiences a glimmer of hope and the feeling that with knowledge comes empowerment and with empowerment comes possible action. Food Inc. is an engaging, important and entertaining documentary. Not only will it make you question your next super-sized quarter pounder meal – haven’t you given up that junk already? sheesh! – it’ll make you question the next time you pick up a steak or a piece of fruit at the supermarket.
Food Inc. is screening as part of the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival.