Posts Tagged documentary

Forks Over Knives: DVD/netflix streaming

Forks Over Knives is one of the most effective documentaries about going vegan that I’ve seen [better than Food Inc. and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead]. It provided me with more arguments to use when someone wonders why I’m a vegan and if I’m truly getting all the proper nutrients etc. Yes I am. I feel better than I would if eating dairy or fish and I’ve not eaten meat since I was 18. Forks Over Knifes shows how doctors made a link between some of the most serious chronic conditions [diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease] and the consumption of a whole foods plant-based diet. Some of these conditions get completely reversed by changing one’s eating habits.

–40% of Americans are obese
–The U.S. spends $2.2 trillion on healthcare, which is 5x the defense budget
–Per person, Americans consume 222 lbs of meat, 147 lbs of sugar and 605 lbs of dairy annually
–increased dairy consumption leads to increases incidences of osteoporosis and hip fractures

for more info: Forks Over Knives website

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film review: Body of War

During the Gulf War, I wrote letters to four guys serving over there. After 9/11, like many Blue-staters, I put an American flag decal-type thing (my friend and I printed them and laminated them at work) on my car and drove around with it for perhaps six months. For some reason, I didn’t think about writing letters until recently. After reading Elizabeth Berg’s tearjerker about WWII, Dream When You’re Feeling Blue, I found one via the website Adopt a US Soldier. Now I have been writing to PFC Michael Spaeth, stationed somewhere in Iraq. He thanked me profusely and told me how much he appreciated it. I (ever the journo) questioned this.

His reply: What I mean by it means a lot and I owe you, is that some of the people we fight to defend don’t appreciate what we do. We fight for them to be free to protest and picket us. But then there are those who support us and for that I feel we owe a debt of gratitude. I know that to someone such as yourself, it may not be a big deal to write and send packages to soldiers, but to us it’s not a big deal to be here fighting for our country. I don’t feel that anyone owes me anything for what I do. So when somebody takes the time to write letters and so on, it means a lot. I don’t expect those kinds of things and that makes it all the more worth while.

When I re-read Michael’s message I still do not understand what he means when he says fighting for our country. Does he really think that being in Iraq is protecting us? I did not reply to that part of his e-mail and in letters I say that I hope he is safe. I don’t often know what to even say. He’s only 22 years old. But he has two small children. Though I’m a decade older than him, our life experience may be equal though incomparable.

This brings me to the film Body of War. Collateral damage, conflicted participants, conscientious objectors? Check. Check. Check. As seen through the eyes of one 25-year-old disabled veteran, Tomas Young, the war is not over once the soldiers come home. There are numerous challenges ahead. He’s dealing with a wife, self-catheterizations and trying to make a place for himself now that he’s paralyzed from the chest area down. This is definitely an aspect of the war that most Americans have remained shielded from. Sure we hear that 4,000 American troops have died but do we see the veterans who come back with PTSD or missing limbs? And what of our great superpower democratic United States? The Congressional vote on the war resolution in 2002 is interspersed through the film. The greatest voice of opposition, West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, has a touching moment in his office with Tomas.

It should spark debate in everyone. I’m against the war and I’m against staying in Iraq any longer. My sort-of boyfriend Brian also opposed the initial invasion but supports the slow withdrawal. I’m sure everyone has a different opinion about that colossal mess. Body of War is produced by Phil Donahue, so you know going in that it’s going to be very left-leaning. I also saw the film in VERY liberal Cambridge, Mass. The audience clapped when the film ended (this was Friday afternoon). I know many are war weary and have been staying away from Iraq-themed films in general, but this film feels a bit different. It’s very personal and evocative. Eddie Vedder’s original songs are stirring, heart-wrenching and honest. While at times Body of War can be overzealous or preachy and a bit obvious in its anti-war message, it provides us with another viewpoint: from a front row seat. The heartfelt story of Tomas is extremely moving, thoughtful and memorable and worth the trip to the theater.

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film review: King Corn

Brian and I went to a screening of King Corn (now out on DVD) at The Groton School in Groton, Mass. today. He lives in Groton so had seen the signs about it. I missed the film at last year’s IFFB. Director/producer and Yale graduate (and Brian calls ‘tree hugger’) Ian Cheney answered questions afterward. People did not ask about the making of the film as much as the subject matter. He’s a filmmaker not an expert on the growing and production of corn and its products but he learned a bit from the filming. I think that documentarians are journalists with a camera and while you might maintain interests in a topic or subject matter, you move on once you are finished with something. You may go back to similar topics (his next film up at this year’s IFFBoston is The Greening of Southie about the building of a green luxury apartment building in working class South Boston.

The film is fascinating though not completely balanced. Not sure many in the Heartland think that it is. It works though.

So two recent Ivy league graduates decide to find out about the food they have been consuming for as long as they can remember ( a lot of fast food). After hair analysis, they travel to Iowa and make plans to harvest an acre of corn. Not only wil lthey do this but they plan to follow the corn off the lot and into the market (this proves much more complicated). The result is a somewhat startling, certainly provocative documentary about the commercialization of America’s heartland and the piss poor food industry (production-wise). In King Corn, Ian and his friend, Curtis are going to grow getntically modiefied LIberty link corn. During a taste test in August, both guys quickly spit out the corn. Ian says it’s “disugusting.” And Curtis says: “I thought it would taste better.”

I am a non-dairy eating semi-vegetarian. I stopped eating read meat when I was 12 and then poultry at 18. I was a complete vegetarian but when I turned 30, kind of fell off the wagon, I’ll blame it on my brother, Adam, who took me out to dinner at the Linwood Grille (the wood grilled fish looked very appetizing). I eat fish when I’m eating out or with a group of people (sometimes). At home it’s fruit, veggies, legumes, hummus and baba ghanouj. In the film, it states that people spend 15% of their income on food. I feel like I spend much more because I buy most of my food at Whole Foods and also produce is more expensive than a lot of other others.

One acre in Iowa= five tons of food! Iowa grows enough corn to feed the United States but most Iowans do not grow food that feeds their own families. Corn is a huge commodity. A cash cow that feeds cows or becomes corn syrup. Gross. From a certified crop advisor to cattle ranches to a corn syrup factory (they cannot gain entry with cameras but a neatly coiffed woman regales the duo with all the ways that corn syrup can be used: “It browns bread!” “It makes spaghetti sauce less acidic!” to the halls of academia, Ian and Curtis research corn and it’s an eye-opening experience.

Do Americans know the difference between grass fed and corn fed cattle? I suspect not. See this film and you will be questioning it much more if you eat meat. Livestock consume 70% of the antibiotics that are produced. Yes, read that line again: livestock consume 70% of the antibiotics that are produced. A feed lot produced waste comparable to seven million people. Animals that are not grass fed are confined and eat corn so that they get fatter faster. Which makes for cheaper meat and a higher level of saturated fats in meat. Gross gross gross. If you haven’t noticed, cheap food is high in saturated fats. It’s easier to grab something fast than to prepare something sure but it’s so gross to think about what we are putting into our bodies. And yes, I eat some junk food on occasion. I’m not thin at the moment but I was up until the last five years or so! Prior to 1970, high fructose corn syrup was too costly to produce now it’s the first ingredient in most food items.

King Corn is airing on PBS as part of the Independent Lens series.


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