Eric Schlosser’s bestselling, non-fiction exposé, Fast Food Nation, opened the doors of cattle slaughterhouses and exposed the abuses heaped on workers at meat processing plants—and anyone who bites into a “value meal.” Tough as it sometimes was, the book is a terrific read and an eye-opener. A film adaptation was released in 2006 that was unloved and little seen. I liked the film, despite its lack of a focused story, but many felt that Schlosser’s book would have been better made as a documentary. Well, here you go.
This polished, always interesting doc—which Schlosser produced and narrates—dissects where your food really comes from, shows why corn is taking over our diets, provides bloody gazes at how factory farm animals are treated—and still somehow leaves you cautiously hopeful that your next meal will be healthier than your last.
In complete honesty, I’ve never been very sympathetic to chickens, a particularly stupid bird, and have always found those “PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals” T-shirts to be hilarious. That changed after I saw this movie—visions of chicken death camps and the sounds of their screams before getting decapitated are disturbing, as is the bizarre notion that chickens are fattened up so their breasts meet McNugget standards.
If you’re already a member of PETA and a vegan who buys only organic food, this film will have a preaching-to-the-choir effect. But even those who pay the occasional visit to the drive-thru and crave a juicy steak will find this entertaining and illuminating without feeling they’ve been hit over the head with a carrot.
Schlosser narrates with a directness that is approachable and relatable instead of smug or self-righteous. He also provides a recognizably human contradiction: despite the film’s frequent declaration of the dangers of beef, we see Schlosser hungrily gulp down a burger, which he says has always been his favorite food. Here’s another contradiction: I loved Schlosser’s book, which is set in Colorado, where I currently am as I write this review; with one hand, I’m typing, while, with my other hand, I’m eating a Spam musubi I got from the L and L’s Hawaiian Barbecue up the street.
I think Schlosser would agree with my mother-in-law’s motto: everything in moderation. It’s rare to find a documentary that, for the most part, plays fair with both sides and even goes so far to point out how Wal-Mart is (sort of) part of the solution.
Closing word of advice: eat before you watch the film or, like me, you’ll be looking at your tub of popcorn with horror. Maui Time Weekly, Barry Wurst II
Screens Friday, September 11 at 5 & 7:30pm at the Castle Theater in Kahului as part of the Maui Film Festival’s Candlelight Cinema series; 242-7469 or mauifilmfestival.com.