- Actors: Bob Bledsoe, Earl L. Butz, Dawn Cheney, Ian Cheney, Don Clikeman
- Directors: Aaron Woolf
- Writers: Ian Cheney, Aaron Woolf, Curtis Ellis, Jeffrey K. Miller
- Producers: Curt Ellis, Aaron Woolf, Curtis Ellis
- Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
- Language: English
- Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: Not RatedNR
- Studio: Docurama
- DVD Release Date: April 29, 2008
- Run Time: 88 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (368 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B001EP8EOY
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,131 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Learn more about "King Corn" on IMDb
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Engrossing and eye-opening, KING CORN is a fun and crusading journey into the digestive tract of our fast food nation where one ultra-industrial, pesticide-laden, heavily-subsidized commodity dominates the food pyramid from top to bottom - corn. Fueled by curiosity and a dash of naivet, college buddies Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis return to their ancestral home of Greene, Iowa to figure out how a modest kernel conquered America. With the help of some real farmers, oodles of fertilizer and government aid, and some genetically modified seeds, the friends manage to grow one acre of corn. Along the way, they unlock the hilarious absurdities and scary but hidden truths about America's modern food system.
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Top Customer Reviews
The film starts off slowly as the reasons for the trip are explained. The prerequisite talking heads introduce some scary factoids about how Americans are literally made of corn; if you do a hair analysis, it's like a diet diary, and the vast majority of the American diet (corn-fed beef, fast foods and processed foods) contains corn derivatives. Much of the corn we ingest is in the guise of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a cheaper alternative to sugar that is produced via a scary chemical conversion involving several toxic acids. HFCS has been directly linked to the current obesity crisis and its impact on Type II Diabetes (the body processes HFCS differently from table sugar). Prior to the 1970s, hardly any company used HFCS due to its high cost. But after then-Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz did away with the old New Deal market control policies in favor of rapid expansion in 1973, there was a constant surplus of cheap (and non-edible) corn, fueling the rapid expansion of the corn syrup industry. Here's a quick test: walk into any convenience store and count how many items contain corn, specifically corn syrup. The list includes obvious choices like soda and candy, but you'll also find HFCS in deli meats, breads, ketchup, pickle relish, spaghetti sauce, and cough syrup. Oh yes, and one main variety of corn grown in Iowa (Liberty) is genetically modified, as is at least one ingredient in HFCS manufacturing.
Corn production geared towards ethanol is briefly mentioned, but the majority of the focus in King Corn is on the impact of non-edible corn on the nation's food supply. In this respect, it's kind of a gentler version of Supersize Me; there's no shock value for the most part. Also mentioned is the disastrous consequence of converting cattle from grazing animals to force-fed confined ones. Cattle normally forage for a plant-based diet, but it is far more profitable to bring them up to market weight by forcing them to stand still and eat continuously. In addition, the acids present in corn cause deadly ulcers for the cows, who are slaughtered before developing acidosis. The end result is that 70% of the antibiotics in the US are used on livestock (antibiotics combat both the acidosis and the infections resulting from confinement). Literally everything at McDonald's contains corn: your hamburger is corn-fed, the bun contains HFCS, your soda contains HFCS, the French fries are fried in corn (or soybean) oil, and your ketchup and pickle contains HFCS. Ditto for most vending machine foods, frozen dinners, and anything you don't make from scratch. It's extremely difficult to escape buying foods containing corn, since a variety of pseudonyms are used, including baking powder, caramel color, dextrose, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, stearic acid, and vanilla, making it a nightmare for anyone with corn allergies.
Perhaps the most effective element is that of nostalgia. Ian and Curt also take time to find their long-lost relatives in Greene, and to reflect on the rapid changes in our recently agrarian society that have forced farmers to maintain massive farms harvesting non-edible corn. In other words, the farmer can't even feed himself with what he's growing. Without the hefty government subsidies, such large-scale corn operations would be out of business. They interview various farmers and ranchers who are disgusted with the system, but who have little real choice (one farmer says flatly, "We're growing crap!"). We're shown the evolution of farming equipment and of the family farm itself as a quaint reminder of the past; there are nostalgic shots of Main Street and hometown parades, quiet diners and local bars.
Ian and Curt's visual style is playful; the charts and graphs are hand-drawn, interspersed with stop-motion plastic farm toys to get the point across (and the dancing corn on the map of the US was great, too). The quirky soundtrack is a standout as well. DVD extras include some outtakes, a music video, bios, and some great 1950s-style educational clips. King Corn is a thought-provoking look at the old adage "You are what you eat," and boy, it's scary.
I've burned down all my wooden buildings, except for the 'century house'. I'm 75. When I'm gone someone else can raze that.
The impoverishment and de-humanizing of Iowa is deliberate government policy, the opposite of some European countries. Our present system does work well for huge agricultural supply and commodity conglomerates.
High tarrifs on imported cane sugar exacerbate the problem. The goal is to keep Americans eating inferior corn sugar products at protected prices.
It takes a lifetime of on-farm experience to successfully operate a viable 'sustainable agriculture' farm. Such expertise is dying or dead. Iowans raise 'export kids' to find careers in other states.
The DVD 'King Corn' tells the true story on many levels. The rationale for providing much food at low cost is deeply flawed and unsustainable, but highly appealing to the 'sound bite' crowd. Food that is truly 'good for you' may cost twice as much in stores and four times as much in restaurants. Are you ready, willing and able to pay for good quality rather than poor quantity?
Supersize Me is wonderful for following, in one man, the appalling health deterioration born of eating only corn (okay, of eating only McDonald's, but watch King Corn, and you'll see the direct parallel), but Supersize Me doesn't cover how the US government indirectly yet absolutely funds the fast food industry and almost every packaged, processed, unhealthy food on the market by subsidizing the commodity crops that are those foods' core ingredients.
Watch King Corn. Then watch Supersize Me again (or for the first time--it's REALLY entertaining). And this time you'll understand WHY it costs McDonald's only five cents for every twenty five cent Supersize they're able to sell. It's because corn is subsidized; it's cheap. And corn is in EVERYTHING they serve.
And by the way, the irony of this in the midst of our current healthcare battle is tremendous. Government pays for the creation of cheap, abundant, crappy food that makes our bodies obese, diabetic, and sick, then Congress fights about how to fund the ever-growing healthcare burden of obese, diabetic, sick patients. Regardless of HOW we fund it, we're fighting about the pound of cure. I don't argue that government should strip farm subsidies. But if we're really going to argue about the cost of healthcare, we should be fighting about how to better use farm subsidy funds to grow healthy food. We should be fighting about ounce of prevention.