KING CORN is a fun and illuminating journey into the digestive tract of our fast food nation where one ultra-industrialized, pesticide-laden, heavily-subsidized commodity dominates the food pyramid from top to bottom: corn. Fueled by curiosity and a dash of naivete, college buddies Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis return to their ancestral home of Greene, Iowa to figure out how a modest kernel conquered America.
With the help of some real farmers, oodles of fertilizer, government aid and some genetically modified seeds, the friends manage to grow one acre of corn. Along the way, they unlock the hilarious absurdities and scary hidden truths about America's modern food system in this engrossing and eye-opening documentary.
A graceful and frequently humorous film, KING CORN shows how and why whenever you eat a hamburger or drink a soda, you're really consuming ... corn.
Made In: USA
Directed with vigor and high visual style by Aaron Woolf, "King Corn" should be required viewing by anyone planning to visit a supermarket, fast-food joint or their own refrigerator. Funny, wise and sad, it suggests that being well-fed has nothing to do with being well-nourished. (Posted on 10/17/12)
"King Corn" manages to win us over in part because it does not announce its outrage through a bullhorn. Instead, this soft-spoken movie directed by newcomer Aaron Woolf gets its point across by settling in among its rural Iowa subjects and following the lead of its goofy everyman co-producers/stars, Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis, as they attempt to farm a single acre of corn. Cheney and Ellis are East Coast-based friends who met in college and somehow discovered they shared roots in the same small northern Iowa agricultural community. One winter they set out from Boston with plans to lease an acre and see if they can turn a profit in a year. Along the way, they hope they'll not only unearth interesting parts of their heritage but also learn more about a nation that they say is literally made of corn, a crop that now factors into just about every processed food we eat. Like many a documentary before it (Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me" springs immediately to mind), "King Corn" manufactures a slice-of-life approach to examining a complicated pie. Cheney and Ellis quickly deduce that their little acre is a microcosm of the average modern American farm, where chemical fertilizers and government subsidies encourage high yields without regard for organic edibility or consumer need. And when they follow their harvest through the commercial food chain, they're even more distressed by viewing corn-fed cattle concentration camps and listening to a spokeswoman for the Corn Refiners Association extol the virtues of high-fructose corn syrup in a country grappling with rampant obesity. Where this documentary distinguishes itself, however, is in the unusual amount of warmth it lets into the mix. Cheney and Ellis are both funny and completely unthreatening, which does not mean toothless. Like his stars, Woolf treats both friend and foe (including farm-subsidies inventor Earl Butz) with respect, refraining from sarcasm, superiority, or ambush. "King Corn" insists that we recognize the Corn Belt's beauty and intelligence along with its somewhat self-induced plight. The film never takes itself too seriously and only occasionally feels not serious enough, such as when it illustrates one too many economic points with the help of a Fisher-Price farm. It's fair to say that a meaner documentary might have packed more punch. But it's hard to imagine Michael Moore turning out anything that feels as pleasantly nourishing. (Posted on 10/17/12)
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