Docs get the dirty deeds done

Over the last few months my movie cravings have been leaning more towards the mindless and less towards the mindful. Being back in school chews up a lot of my brainpower and at the end of the day I just want to kick back and be entertained. However, after catching the Oscar footage of The Cove winning Best Documentary, I figured I was about due for some engaging real life stories. This issue of Rave Reviews looks at both The Cove and another Academy Award nominee from 2009, Food, Inc.


I had already heard that The Cove was a knockout when it first premiered in April of 2009. The film follows a rag-tag group of activists as they delve into the secrets of Taiji, Japan, a small coastal town that’s historically relied on whaling to support its local economy. Since the introduction of international prohibitions on whaling in the 1980s, Japan has lobbied internationally to have the prohibitions revoked and has also used the lack of protection for small cetaceans to their country’s advantage in terms of allowing dolphin hunts. The hunts are not publicized and are something of a dirty little secret around the world—that is, until The Cove blew the lid off. The team behind the film worked for five years capturing footage of the dolphin slaughter that was going on in Taiji. The resulting film is graphic, disturbing and incredibly moving. The story comes across as part drama and part thriller, and moves at speed to keep the viewer engaged. An Oscar win was well-deserved.

Food, Inc. was also nominated under the Best Documentary category this year. The film highlights much of the research done by authors Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) about North America’s relationship with food. Insider looks into how our food is engineered, what goes on inside slaughterhouses and what alternatives are out there for consumers, these and other issues are explored in this pointed exposé. As regular readers know, I love food movies and I enjoyed Food, Inc. though I did find that it glossed over many of the issues it dealt with. It may be that I was prejudiced as I recently read The Omnivore’s Dilemma which deals with many of the same issues. If you have time to read Pollan’s fantastic book, I would recommend it instead of watching the film. However if all you have time for is a two-hour jaunt that takes you from pasture to plate then pick up Food, Inc. You’ll never look at steak the same way again.

If winter has left your mind a little fuzzy and you’re looking to do a bit of mental spring cleaning, these two thought-provoking documentaries are a great place to start.

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