Food safety, animal welfare, environmental toll, growing rates of obesity and diabetes, corporate thuggery—the drubbing of arguments in favor of being inquisitive when it comes to the origin of your food can seem thunderous in liberal enclaves like Portland. Indeed, the content of Food, Inc.—by far the most impressive in a rash of documentaries addressing food industry corruption in America—brings little new information to light for readers of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, etc. Regardless, director Robert Kenner's film may be the most compelling synthesis of all the evidence that's been brought against the system to date.
If you could convince a skeptic to endure just one investigation of the topic, Food, Inc. would be the most effective and efficient choice, by far—more so even than the revered tomes of Pollan and Eric Schlosser, on whose work and testimony much of the film is based. Film's ability to put a face on not only the animals our society consumes, but also on the oppressed farmers, poverty-stricken factory workers, and 13-year-old diabetics lends a powerful, memorable visual heft.
Food, Inc. is being handled by Participant Media, the company that helped propel An Inconvenient Truth into prominence, and the company's purposeful creation of social action campaigns around it offers a constructive outlet for the despair and outrage Kenner so effectively arouses. Likewise, the hearty, passionate organic meat farmer-icon Joel Salatin onscreen is a far more unforgetable and inspiring figure of alternative feasibility than on the page.
In interviews, Kenner is borderline apologetic for the degree to which his final film took on a sinister tone. But the utter refusal of corporate representatives to defend their position, coupled with documented actions taken to prevent and retaliate against scrutiny and criticism, leaves little other interpretation. Using the fight against big tobacco as a model, Food, Inc. has the fortune of precedent to point to as a light at the end of a—albeit long and deeply entrenched—tunnel.