This past weekend I watched Food Inc. followed by Dirt! The Movie. By the time the latter was almost over, my old pal Bob called, and I raged against the machine for five minutes before he could get a word in edgewise.
These documentaries, both airing this week on Western Reserve PBS, are … hmmm. They’re very good. They’re informative. They’re also scary.
That’s no excuse not to watch — sometimes we have to peek out from under the covers to see what’s going on out there. And after the scare wears off, you may just find yourself inspired.
Food Inc. Wednesday, April 21 at 9 p.m.
We’re all familiar with the range of film genres — drama, romantic comedy, documentary, musical, action, thriller, horror and so on. And then we have the sub-genres – noir, war, mob, slasher. And after that, there’s an arena where genres are blended. For example, the drama Glengarry Glen Ross could just as easily be regarded as a horror film for salespeople.
In Food Inc., we find a new specialty genre in which the beloved “foodie” movie meets the documentary format meets the horror genre, and a “foodie horror show” is born.
When the documentary was in theatrical release, it was pitched as a film that will change the way you look at meat. However, way more disturbing, for me at least, is what it says about the collective us. What are we thinking???
Owen Gleiberman, film critic for Entertainment Weekly, wrote, “I’m not generally in the habit of praising movies for being good for you, but Food, Inc. is more than just a terrific documentary — it's an important movie, one that nourishes your knowledge of how the world works … [It is] an essential, disturbing portrait of how the food we eat in America has become a deceptively prefab, even hazardous industrial product.”
Ground beef scrubbed with ammonia? (Here I thought Meryl Strep was going too far by washing vegetables with Palmolive.) Chickens and cows fattened so fast their skeletal structures can’t keep up with the rapid weight gain? Holy – or maybe unholy, corn-fed – mackerel! I’ll have the fruit salad, please. I think.
Dirt! The Movie Thursday, April 22, at 3 a.m. and 8 p.m. Repeats Saturday, April 24, at 11 p.m.
Have we ever quit loving dirt? Little kids love dirt, celebrate dirt, revel in dirt, as if they know the connection between us and it. Creation stories say we’re made of dirt, and scientists (and Joni Mitchell) say we are stardust, which is, well, dirt. It feels great between our toes and smells fantastic after a good rain shower. Heck, people even travel to exotic places for long soaks in wet dirt (a.k.a. mud).
Dirt is Earth itself, or at least its skin, as Dirt! The Movie points out. Lowly dirt is the stuff of life. It’s what keeps us alive and breaks down a lot of the messes we make.
Yet, dirt, it seems, is in trouble.
I’ll let a segment of the press release explain: Narrated by award-winning actress, author and social activist Jamie Lee Curtis, Dirt! The Movie delves into the fascinating history of this lowly substance, explaining how four billion years of evolution have created the dirt that recycles our water, gives us food, provides us shelter and can be used as a source of medicine, beauty and culture. But people have become greedy and careless, endangering this vital living resource with destructive methods of agriculture, mining practices and urban development. This abusive behavior has yielded catastrophic results: mass starvation, drought, floods, war and global warming. But as the film shows, times are changing — brown is the new green. Filmmakers Bill Benensen and Gene Rosow traveled to more than 20 locations around the world, visiting global visionaries who are discovering new ways of thinking as they come together to repair this natural resource with practical, viable solutions.
Watch Food Inc. and Dirt! The Movie. Maybe you’ll never look at meat or dirt the same way again.