'King Corn': Kernels of Truth

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Joining a recent noble tradition of fine muckraking documentaries about where cheap stuff comes from, "King Corn" pulls the husk off the scandal of modern food production, specifically the industrialized, subsidized, largely mythologized world of American farming.

This lively, engaging and visually arresting documentary follows Yale graduates Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis as they visit an isotope lab, where a technician informs them that a carbon analysis of their hair indicates they're "corn-based." From there, the team travels from Boston to Iowa, where they intend to lease a plot of farmland to find out "how an acre of corn could get from a field in Iowa to our hair."

Following Cheney and Ellis's nine-month sojourn in Iowa, including side trips to cattle-processing lots in eastern Colorado and junk-food shops in Brooklyn, "King Corn" uses their amusing journey, clever corn-kernel animation and sobering talking-head interviews to reveal how corn-centric agri-business results in fat cows, fat kids and family farms on the auction block.

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.

-- Ann Hornaday

King Corn Unrated, 88 minutes Contains a graphic image of a cow's ulcerated stomach. At Landmark's E Street Cinema and Landmark's Bethesda Row. King Corn Unrated, 88 minutes Contains a graphic image of a cow's ulcerated stomach. At Landmark's E Street Cinema and Landmark's Bethesda Row.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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