Agro-environmental Films

The genre of "environmental documentary" or "environmental film" is large enough now that it can suitably hold sub-sets. Here is a start to a filmography of agro-environmental documentaries and films. Since it is by no means exhaustive, I welcome all additions. I should say too that although many of these almost necessarily touch on GMOs and biotechnology in general, I am looking more for ones that put the lens on alternative and sustainable agriculture as their centerpiece.

Princeton's Environmental Film Festival (currently underway), is hosting some of these agro-food films, along with entries on coal, plastics, and more. It got me started on putting this list together, pushed along by my plan to use a handful of these in a course I'm teaching this Spring on science, technology, and sustainable agriculture.

So, food- and/or ag-based films below:

1. Food, Inc.
"[F]ilmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of e coli--the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults."

2. What's On Your Plate?
"Filmed over the course of one year, the film follows two eleven-year-old African-American city kids as they explore their place in the food chain. Sadie and Safiyah take a close look at food systems in New York City and its surrounding areas. With the camera as their companion, the girl guides talk to each other, food activists, farmers, new friends, storekeepers, their families, and the viewer, in their quest to understand what's on all of our plates." [The film isn't out yet.]

3. The Future of Food
"[E]xamines the complex web of market and political forces that are changing what we eat as huge multinational corporations seek to control the world's food system. The film also explores alternatives to large-scale industrial agriculture, placing organic and sustainable agriculture as real solutions to the farm crisis today." [Plus, you know, it was made by Jerry Garcia's wife.]

4. Our Daily Bread [a tough one to watch, the sights of which are heightened by its lack of narrative or voice-overs]
"To the rhythm of conveyor belts and immense machines, the film looks without commenting into the places where food is produced in Europe: monumental spaces, surreal landscapes and bizarre sounds - a cool, industrial environment which leaves little space for individualism. People, animals, crops and machines play a supporting role in the logistics of this system which provides our society's standard of living."

5. King Corn [The Omnivore's Dilemma in film form in Iowa, more or less]
"Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America's most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat--and how we farm."

6. The Real Dirt on Farmer John (and here too) [a remarkable story and movie of which one might say, 'I didn't want it to end.']
"For close to a century, a great American epic has been played out in the tiny town of Caledonia, Illinois, about 75 miles west of Chicago. THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN tells the story of one man, his farm and his family--a story that parallels the history of American farming. But Farmer John is no laconic, Grant Wood-type with a scowl and a pitchfork. Equal parts performance artist, writer and farmer, John Peterson has been known to switch out of his overalls into leopard latex or a purple-feathered boa."

7. East of Eden
"The film, set in 1917 at a time just before the US entry into World War I, portrays the relationship between insecure, tortured, neurotic loner Caleb "Cal" Trask (James Dean, his first major role and film) and his dutiful, favored brother Aron (Richard Davalos) - twin sons. Their father is a stern, hardened, devoutly religious, self-righteous man, Adam (Raymond Massey), a lettuce farmer living with his family in Salinas, California." [The lettuce farming part is what we're after here.]

8. The World According to Monsanto
"Monsanto's controversial past combines some of the most toxic products ever sold with misleading reports, pressure tactics, collusion, and attempted corruption. They now race to genetically engineer (and patent) the world's food supply, which profoundly threatens our health, environment, and economy. Combining secret documents with first-hand accounts by victims, scientists, and politicians, this widely praised film exposes why Monsanto has become the world's poster child for malignant corporate influence in government and technology. A film by Marie-Monique Robin."

9. Deconstructing Supper
"Renowned chef John Bishop leads viewers on an eye-opening and engaging journey into the billion-dollar battle to control global food production. Starting with a gourmet meal in his five-star restaurant, Bishop travels the world -- from farmer's fields to biotech laboratories to supermarket aisles -- on a personal quest to find out what our food choices are."

10. Hybrid
Beginning in the 1930s, [Milford] Beeghly and his company, Beeghly's Best Hybrids, brought the gospel of hybrid corn right into the homes of Midwestern farmers where it encountered suspicion and fear. But hybrid corn seeds were far more than a business proposition for Beeghly. His own experiments had convinced him that hybrids, most especially of corn, which has peculiarly "promiscuous" characteristics, promised a millennial era of peace and prosperity...."Hybrid" begins by catching up with Beeghly and his family on the patriarch's 94th birthday....Hybrid is a deft portrait of a self-made man and peculiarly American philosopher of the soil."

11. My Father's Garden
"[A] documentary about the use and misuse of technology on the American farm. In less than fifty years the face of agriculture has been utterly transformed by synthetic chemicals, whose power to control the forces of nature is rivaled only by that of the atom bomb. These chemicals have also changed the farmers who have used them. This film tells the story of two such lives, different in all details, yet united by their common goal of producing good food."

12. Women's Garden Cycle
"The film chronicles a 2,000 mile bicycle trip made by Sheets, Liz Tylander, and Kat Shiffler to explore the budding environmental agriculture and local food movement. From the mid-Atlantic up into New England and Canada, they discover people and communities finding solutions to the environmental excesses of industrialized agriculture."

13. The Hunger Season
"Across the world a massive food crisis is unfolding. Climate Change, increasing consumption in China and India, the dash for Biofuels are causing hitherto unimagined food shortages and rocketing prices. The Hunger Season forces us to consider the relationship between our governments, NGO's and the fate of countries in the developing world."

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It is really heart warming that there are indeed a good number of films on environment. I realize that you are a connoisseur in environment related films. :) You may visit our site for checking out our green topics. I'd appreciate if you can give me some feedback on our site: I'd like to hear your opinion/feedback on our green topics.
Thank you,

Great list---you've inspired me to list out some other good ones.

Eat at Bill's: the man and the market behind the Bay Area's local food revolution. Bonus points: the director is an ojai pixie tangerine farmer.

Greenhorns: not yet finished, but it will be an epic tale of the new farmers of America....

...I've got a bigger list at my blog

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Incredible! This blog looks just like my old one! It's on a entirely different topic but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Great choice of colors!