Archive for October 10, 2008

Meet the King Corn guys

Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, filmmakers and stars of "King Corn"
Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, “King Corn” filmmakers

   All that corn being harvested this fall in Iowa, in one sense, isn’t even edible. In another sense, it’s ubiquitous in nearly everything we eat.

   That irony is the theme behind the documentary, “King Corn” which was screened Thursday night at Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids as part of the Environmental Film Festival.

   Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, filmmakers and stars of the documentary, made an appearance at the church to discuss the film with the crowd of about 50 people.  The church’s Rev. Barbara Schlachter said seeing the two stars walk in after watching them on the big screen was like a scene out of “Field of Dreams.”

   Curt, now of Austin, Texas, and Ian, of Brooklyn, NY, both 28, also spent time at Coe College this week. The two are still making environmental films. Their next, “The Greening of Southie,” is about the making of the first large-scale “green” building in Boston.


   The two, best friends in college on the East Coast, discovered they both had great-grandparents from the same northern Iowa county while in the process of making King Corn. The documentary shows their efforts to grow an acre of corn in Greene, northwest of Waterloo, and their attempts to follow their corn in the food system. Along the way, they interview experts who describe government subsidies of the crop – “we subsidize the Happy Meals but we don’t subsidize the healthy ones,” one expert noted – and what has happened to corn, in a nutritional sense, since corn first came into the country hundreds of years ago from Mexico. Essentially, in exchange for higher yields, the high protein content of corn has given way to a higher starch content, with no nutritional value.

   The corn seen growing in most Iowa fields isn’t corn-on-the-cob for humans, but a variety used for cattle feed, ethanol and high-fructose corn syrup, which is in most of what we eat and drink. Soda is liquid candy, one health expert in the film said. The film pointed out that the higher consumption of pop and other processed foods has contributed to the nation’s obesity epidemic, which in turn, contributes to higher rates of Type 2 diabetes.


   Ian and Curt said they’ve changed their eating habits since making the film, with Curt noting that he no longer drinks soda. They plan to do an offshoot movie of “King Corn,” along with other projects in the works.


  The Environmental Film Festival runs through Oct. 26. See the gardening events tab on this blog for the full listing. If you’ve seen one of the films and have some insight to share, add a comment below.



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