I read Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma soon after each of them arrived in bookstores, so it's unsurprising that I went to see Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan in Robert Kenner's latest film. The attempt to present multiple sides of such a complex and emotionally-charged issue was quite well-done.
I especially appreciated the portrayal of the tough choices many Americans have to make when deciding between 99 cent cheeseburgers and far more expensive produce at the local supermarket. It's easy for me and many others in the Cambridge area to jump on the local/organic bandwagon and enjoy cooking at home, but the movie reminded me of the millions who work far more than 40 hours a week to struggle to feed a family. It cetrainly makes my troubles with grad school research seem trivial by comparison.
The other interviews were similarly enlightening: an industrial food scientist demonstrating the chameleon-like versatility of corn, the CEO of an organic company that "sold-out" to WalMart (in some people's minds), the founder of an idyllic farm that refuses to compromise his principles (and may never spread his vision beyond elite foodies), a seed cleaner who was sued for patent violations, a food safety advocate who lost her son to a virulent strain of E. coli., a union organizer for slaugherhouse employees...
Like Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," the movie ended with some cute typography giving out a plan for action. I'll keep shopping at the local Farmer's Markets and figuring out creative uses for the contents of my weekly Boston Organics box. I already don't drink sodas or eat meat. I could sign some petitions, write to Congress, and be a more active citizen in general. I'm still struggling with the question of what I could do that would actually make a difference versus cosmetic, "feel-good" changes.
If you see the movie, I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you need a little extra incentive to see it, Chipotle is offering free screenings across the country.