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King Corn - documentary DVD review
KING CORN Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 1/2 stars
Featuring: Ian Cheney, Curt Ellis, Stephen Macko, Chuck Pyatt
Director: Aaron Woolf   Distributor: Docurama
DVD release: 29 April 2008   Runtime: 90 min. (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
DVD Features: Languages (English - Dolby 2.0 Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround), Deleted scenes (Chicago - Hauling the harvest to the board of trade), Washington DC - Talking corn on Capitol Hill, Boston - A new Boston tea party), The King Corn in the Corn Belt Tour, The Lost Basement Lectures, Wowz music video, Photo gallery, Filmmaker biographies

Buddies Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis travel to the homeland of their forebears after college to find out how it is that there is so much corn in their chemistry. They met in college back east and discovered that they each have a family history in Greene, Iowa, in the north-central part of the state. They want to plant an acre of corn there and follow the fruit of their labor through the food chain. No real problem - until harvest time. They find that their inedible corn is spread around to different parts of the food chain and elsewhere. Much goes to feed our source of beef, some goes to make high fructose corn syrup (nearly everything in my cupboard contains at least some of this), and some goes to produce ethanol.

It's a complex problem to feed cows corn. They don't digest it easily, and modern feedlots don't allow for much exercise, so they get fat quickly. This produces lower-quality meat, but at the reasonable price we've become accustomed to. Changing this would throw off the pricing at the local hamburger stand.

High fructose corn syrup has been linked to the explosion of diabetes in today's children. Having no nutritional value and tons of calories proves to be problematic. It's so easy to use and plentiful; substitute with another sugar, and the prices rise. You see the problem here?

Ian and Curt aren't all doom and gloom, though. They meet the people of Greene, get to know long-lost relatives in this tiny town. They inform us about modern agriculture and how it is that an acre of land can produce 109% more corn today than it could in 1970. The film is fascinating, and the wonderful people in the community are easy to care about - you want to sit a spell with them at the donut shop and talk about the weather. The town of Greene depends on the generous farm subsidies that come from the government for growing corn (in the '70s, they got paid to not grow corn).

King Corn explores a complex issue in an entertaining way. I find it to be an excellent companion piece to Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. How many other films this year will feature the world's only Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota? It's the first time I've seen it in a larger forum where it was not the butt of the joke. Well done!
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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