Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Thoughts on the Film King Corn

Finally, this past Sunday night I was able to stay up past my bedtime and watch King Corn on IPTV (local PBS station). This has been a long time coming considering I first blogged about the movie on October 30, 2007 ... I mentioned it briefly again on December 13, 2007 ... and I even wrote about it one more time on December 18, 2007. But, despite the opportunities and my HUGE desire to see the film my schedule was never able to connect with the screenings in Iowa. But, after much waiting I was finally able to see what I had been writing about when it aired on Independent Lens. I thought I would give a few of my initial thoughts and then maybe write a little more as I process everything.

1.) I think the first thing that I thought after watching the entire movie is that it was fairly well balanced. Of course I believe they had somewhat of an outline of where they wanted to go with everything, but it did really seem evident that as they learned and grew in the project and in farming knowledge they came to some conclusions that they didn't see coming. This really comes out if you read the "Making Of" section on the Independent Lens website. I think it gives a good glimpse into a portion of their experience.

2.) For me the whole corn in the food system and going through the cattle thing was prominent, but I believe one thing that really popped out as I watched the film was that it was also a film about the loss of the family farm in Iowa. There is a great scene when the are riding and talking with the "big farmer" that does the work on their acre. Almost quietly he mentions something about not wanting to be big, but that was just part of the game. The big cattle guy said the same thing also. As a small family farmer this is something that really hits home with me and I appreciated this angle of the film.

3.) When they were in the office of the "family" rancher (that grows 7,000 acres of corn) the rancher commented that if grassfed was what people wanted than that is what they would give people, but it would be more expensive. This kind of caught me off guard because the inexpensiveness of grass finishing is one of the many reasons that we have adopted this model. Plus corn is almost three times as expensive now as it was in 2005 when the film was made.

4.) As an Iowan I think their treatment of the Iowans and the farmers was great. They didn't make us out to be country bumpkins or backwards prairie people. One farmer in particular said it best when he expressed his feelings about corn. "We're growing crap," he said and then went on to talk about his indifference towards what his corn is used for. He is just selling it ... that is his take.

5.) This film convicted me! As I sat watching the movie I was treating myself to a gourmet root beer (that is a weakness of mine) and eating a small bowl of ice cream. Both of those things have corn syrup in the top three. I was seriously convicted and haven't had a pop since then. But, know one thing ... I'm never cutting back on my favorite foods, corn on the cob and corn casserole!

If you can't tell yet, I am very impressed with the movie. I think it gave a fairly balanced representation of the corn farming culture in Iowa and I like the fact that it didn't jump into the ethanol mess. My feeling is that trying to tackle the ethanol side of things would have muddied up the movie to much because there is so much to explore there. That being said, I did read somewhere that they are also looking into the idea of making a film on some of the other issues like use of fuels and possibly even ethanol.

These guys did a good job and I am pretty impressed with the results. I also wish I could take back my comment from the first time I wrote about the move. Back in October I said, "Okay, this may be bordering on propaganda..." Now if they really want a hit I think they should make a documentary about a beginning farmer starting with nothing in the land of King Corn! I'm serious about this. In one sense I think the movie ends up asking more questions (which is great) than it answers and a look at people farming differently would provide some of those answers. If film was something I was good at I think I would jump at something like that, but of course I may have a little beginning farmer bias!


Anonymous said...

and you can buy the DVD of KING CORN here!!

sugarcreekfarm said...

We enjoyed the film as well. I thought it was very smartly done and with good humor. I agree that they, and their story line, seemed to evolve through the making of the film, and that was one of the neat aspects of it.

I'm with you on #5! We haven't cut out the pop completely (and let's not even talk about ice cream), but the kids and I try to limit it to once a week - Friday Night Pizza Night. Matt has cut back considerably.

I think ethanol would be a fantastic topic for their next film!

Ethan Book said...

Sugar Creek - I wish I would have been able to see it at the conference like you, but then maybe I wouldn't have been as convicted because I wouldn't have been eating ice cream and drinking a pop at the time :)

I do look forward to what they come up with next!

Steven said...

I want to buy the DVD and show it to all my relatives!

I re-watched it last night with more family members and notice alot that I didn't see before. I really like what they do in the end, especially because that's what we're in the process of doing right now.

Oh Ethan, the first seeds in our pasture are starting to come up, we laid all our water lines yesterday and the Hi-Tensile fence is getting started today. Plus, we're getting about 4 eggs/day so far, all in our nest boxes, and we just got a domain name for a blog/website! There's alot happening down here in SE Missouri, I hope you get some warm/good weather up there soon too!

Ethan Book said...

Steven - I'm already planning on showing it to as many family members as I can!

Cool to hear about the work that you are getting down on your place. Hopefully sometime I will get a chance to come and see how things have grown ... once gas prices drop!

Steven said...

That would be great we all wished that the last trip wouldn't have been so rushed! And the other way around too. Chris (my brother in law/farm partner) has family in Iowa and we'd all love to come see your farm and your Dexters later on. Maybe we'll be coming up to buy some more Iowa Dexters someday.

Yesterday "Yellow Dent #2" was planted right up to the edge of our fence posts. I felt like the GPS guided battle lines had been drawn. lol

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...