King Corn – Now Available via iTunes

King Corn – Now Available via iTunes

ByGroovy Green Jun 15, 2008

The kind gentleman promoting King Corn (now out on DVD and iTunes) gave Groovy Green a complementary download of the movie via iTunes to review.  I hadn’t seen the movie yet so it was a good opportunity to view the film and to try out watching a video via downloading.

First of all, downloading the film was fast and easy.  I had iTunes downloading in the background while I caught up on my RSS feed, and was surprised by the speed in which the nearly 1 GB file was transferred.  (For tech savvy readers:  I have a high-speed cable connection, and run OS X 10.4.11 on a MacBook 1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo with 2 GB RAM).  iTunes provides a quick and easy way to watch a movie.  I think that this would be especially worth it on a long flight or trip.  However I think that that is about the only way that it beats owning the actual DVD.  There is no (legitimate) way to burn a iTunes download to a DVD to watch on your TV.  Bummer.  The $14.99 iTunes price did beat out the lowest DVD price that I could find at $17.99.  One last benefit of downloading rather than purchasing the DVD is that is a much “greener” option.  No energy or materials used to produce the media, nor fuel or effort to ship it.  I imagine the trend will continue until DVD’s are things of the past.

Enough about iTunes movies, what did I think about the flick?  I liked it.  For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, here’s the summary:

King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat-and how we farm

I like the personalized interviews with farmers, the rich history of the corn belt, and description about how times have changed.  For those of you that have read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan (who inspired this movie), King Corn gives a stunning visual of description of the corn industry as described in the first part of Pollan’s book.  Literal mountains of corn appear large enough to body-surf on.  Multi-story grain elevators dwarfed only by the landing strip sized overflow section tarped off from the elements.

The premise of the movie – two east coast post-grads head out west to plant their own acre of corn – is anti-climatic.  The work needed to plant, spray herbicide, and harvest their 1 acre section takes mere minutes of their year long stay in Iowa.  I guess that only reinforces the massive size of the farm needed to make a living as a farmer since the end of the 20th century – when Earl Butz famously told farmers to “Get big… or get out.”

I felt the film glossed over the whole genetically modified food issue, as the two writers and stars munched on burgers and fast food throughout the film.  Reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” changed the way my family eats, I can’t imagine producing a film like King Corn and ever eating at a Mickey D’s again.  The most effective and shocking part of the film was the visit to Colorado’s CAFO cattle operations, and a trip to a agriculture university to find out how eating a diet of corn can affect a cow’s stomach.

There is clever use of stop-motion animation through out the movie to convey the changing nature of corn farming using corn kernels and an old Fisher-Price farm set (which I nostalgically longed to search for in the attic).

King Corn captured the struggle of the American Farmer, and their reliance on subsidies from the US government to make a living.  I couldn’t help but wonder how rapidly rising corn prices would affect those same farmers who struggled to make ends meet at $1.65 per bushel.  A recent record price for corn was reached last week at $7.37 per bushel – nearly 4 1/2 times the amount paid just 2 years ago.  I know for sure that it is going to make the products that come out of the other end of the industrial corn process.  The moral of that story?  Seems to be a good thing for us American fatties (less processed food), and not so good for the starving poor in developing nations (less emergency grain aid).

I recommend this movie to both food novices to help them understand where are food really comes from (and is made of), and to deeper greens that may need a topping off of the angst, enough to bypass the meat counter and rows of processed corn products.