Rooftop Films, The
Rural Route Film Festival & XØ Projects present
New York Sneak Preview
Feature documentary directed by Aaron Woolf, Ian
Cheney and Curt Ellis
of corn tells the story of the crop reigning over the
American countryside--and the American diet.
Website | Learn
Saturday, Septemeber 22, 2007
8:30 PM - Live Music by Ola
9:00 PM - King Corn
roof of The Old American Can Factory
CLICK for DIRECTIONS
232 Third Street @ Third Avenue
Gowanus, Brooklyn (Between Carroll Gardens and
In the event of rain the show is indoors at the same
Tickets -$8 at the door or online.
Presented in partnership with - The
Rural Route Film Festival, IFC.com,
magazine & XØ Projects, Inc.
King Corn opens October 12th at Cinema Village. Get your tickets now!
King Corn (Aaron Woolf, Ian Cheney and Curt
Ellis | Brooklyn/Iowa NY | 81 min)
Rooftop Films is thrilled to present the
New York premiere of this very New York film. The director,
cast and crew will be on hand for a Q & A and reception
following the screening.
Almost everything Americans eat contains corn: high fructose corn syrup, corn-fed meat, and corn-based processed foods are the staples of the modern diet. Ready for an adventure and alarmed by signs of their generation’s bulging waistlines, college friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis know where to go to investigate. Eighty years ago, Ian and Curt’s great-grandfathers lived just a few miles apart, in the same rural county in northern Iowa. Now their great-grandsons are returning with a mission: they will plant an acre of corn, follow their harvest into the world, and attempt to understand what they—and all of us—are really made of.
Ian and Curt arrive in the Midwest enthusiastic about their new endeavor. Iowa’s newest farmers lease an acre of land from a skeptical landlord and fill out a pile of paperwork to sign up for subsidies. The government will pay them $28 to grow their acre of corn—the first of many steps that reinforce the idea that more corn is what America needs.
Ian and Curt start the spring by injecting ammonia fertilizer. The chemical promises to increase yields fourfold, fueling the mission of abundance laid out for them. Then it’s planting time, and with a rented tractor, Ian and Curt set 31,000 seeds in the ground in 18 minutes. Their seed has been genetically modified for high yields and herbicide tolerance, and when the seedlings sprout, Ian and Curt apply a powerful spray to ensure that only their corn will thrive on their acre.
But where will all that corn go? Ian and Curt leave Iowa to find out, first considering their crop’s future as feed. In Colorado, rancher Sue Jarrett says her cattle should be eating grass. But with a surplus of corn, it costs less to raise cattle in confinement than to let them roam free: “The mass production of corn drives the mass production of protein in confinement.” Animal nutritionists confirm that corn makes cows sick and beef fatty, but it also lets consumers eat a $1 hamburger. Feedlot owner Bob Bledsoe defends America’s cheap food, but as Ian and Curt see in Colorado, the world behind it can be stomach turning. At one feedlot, 100,000 cows stand shoulder-to-shoulder, doing their part to transform Iowa corn into millions of pounds of fat-streaked beef.
Following the trail of high fructose corn syrup, Ian and Curt hop attempt to make a home-cooked batch of the sweetener in their kitchen. But their investigation of America’s most ubiquitous ingredient turns serious when they follow soda to its consumption in Brooklyn. Here, Type II diabetes is ravaging the community, and America’s addiction to corny sweets is to blame.
The breadth of the problem is now clear: the American food system is built on the abundance of corn, an abundance perpetuated by a subsidy system that pays farmers to maximize production. In a nursing home in the Indiana suburbs, Ian and Curt come face-to-face with Earl Butz, the Nixon-era Agriculture Secretary who invented subsidies. The elderly Butz champions the modern food system as an “Age of plenty” Ian and Curt’s great-grandfathers only dreamed of.
November pulls Ian and Curt back to Iowa. Their 10,000-pound harvest seems as grotesque as it is abundant. They haul their corn to the elevator and look on as it makes its way into a food system they have grown disgusted by. At a somber farm auction, Ian and Curt decide to tell their landlord they want to buy the acre. The next spring their cornfield has been pulled from production and planted in a prairie, a wild square surrounded by a sea of head-high corn.
Whether or not you make it out to this amazing show, please spread the word about this extraordinary film so that it get the attention it deserves. Independednt films need your support, so go see it at Cinema Village when it opens October 12th. Tickets are available now!
Notes on Corn:
Corn is the nation’s most-planted, most-processed, most-subsidized
crop. More than 80 million acres of the heartland are
planted in corn each year, and the stuff makes its way
to our tables in countless, often unrecognizable forms:
“If you take that McDonald’s meal, you don’t realize
it when you eat it, but you’re eating corn. Beef has
been corn-fed. Soda is corn, it’s all high fructose
corn syrup. It’s the main ingredient. Even the French
fries, which are, you know, half the calories in the
French fries come from the fat that they’re fried in,
which is liable to be either corn oil or soy oil. And
so when you’re at that McDonald’s, you’re eating Iowa
food. Everything on your plate is corn.”
-- Michael Pollan, UC Berkeley, in
There is legislative logic to this flood of cheap corn-based
foods. In 2005 alone, federal farm subsidies spent $9.4
billion in taxpayer money to promote corn production.
For Iowa farmers, the government payment is often the
difference between profit and loss on a given acre.
With federal subsidies often promoting corn production
beyond market demand, the raw materials for the obesity
epidemic are readily at hand. King Corn brings these
issues to light just as Congress is set to debate the
2007 Farm Bill, a once-in-seven-years opportunity to
change what our tax dollars subsidize and how we eat.
The Music: Ola
Ola Podrida began as a home-recording project for film
composer David Wingo, who has done the scores for George
Washington, All the Real Girls, and The
Guatemalan Handshake, and he performed prior to
New York premiere of Guatemalan at Rooftop
Films in 2006. He began writing and recording a batch
of songs soon after moving back to Austin from New York
at the beginning of 2005. Upon completion of the recordings,
he started performing the songs live with old friends
Robert Patton and Matthew Frank, both of whom moved
back to Brooklyn with Wingo in the fall of 2006, where
they are now also playing with two other old Texas friends,
Andrew Kenny (American Analog Set) and Johnny Christ.
Ola Podrida's self-titled debut album was released by
the label Plug Research April 24, 2007. Listen to their
lovely songs on MySpace
What some people are saying:
PITCHFORK:"Ola Podrida is a cohesive,
confident album full of folky, quiet guitars and thoughtful
lyrics that coalesce into complete songs" (Rating
STYLUS MAGAZINE:"Ola Podrida isn't
just a strikingly accomplished debut - it's near-essential
listening for anyone who's been taken with the recent
turn in some parts of the indie cosmology towards folkier
and more countrified sounds."
POPMATTERS:"Writers like to say
stupid stuff about music like this being a > soundtrack
to your life, but really, put your life on hold for
46 > minutes."
SPIN.COM - ARTIST OF THE DAY: "Instruments
layer together subtly and deftly, creating an atmosphere
that brings to mind the wide Western plains or old,
NPR, Song of the Day - "Jordanna":
"Ola Podrida excels at creating a beautifully atmospheric
mood, as well as gentle beauty that's both spacious
and deceptively complex."
GORILLA VS. BEAR: "They do a great
job of capturing the feelings that characterize the
impossibly wide expanse that is our state. This is 'Texas
Music', in the best sense of the phrase...My first favorite