Aired Tuesday April 15th, 2008 at 11:01 pm
Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis
KING CORN is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college, move to the heartland town that was once home to their great-grandfathers. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, nitrogen fertilizers 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 is that the fat of the land is fattening us up, and their journey raises troubling questions about how we eat -- and how we farm.
KING CORN will have its television premiere as part of the sixth season of the Emmy® Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Terrence Howard, on Tuesday, April 15, at 11 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7. Join KUED Tuesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. at The City Library Auditorium (210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City) for a free screening and panel discussion on this program.
Behind America's $1 hamburgers, 72-ounce sodas and ubiquitous snack foods is the key ingredient that quietly fuels our fast-food nation: corn. In KING CORN, the filmmakers tend their small field the way a big farmer would: applying for government subsidies, injecting ammonia fertilizer, planting genetically modified seeds and applying herbicide from a giant tractor. By summer, their modern farm is thriving, and the Corn Belt is steaming toward a record harvest: 11 billion bushels of corn.
With their crop head-high, Cheney and Ellis leave the farm to see where America's abundance of corn ends up. But as they enter America's industrial kitchen, they are forced to confront the realities of their corn's future: sweetening the sodas of a diabetes-plagued neighborhood in Brooklyn and fattening the feed trough of a 100,000-head cattle feedlot in Colorado.
The filmmakers are increasingly troubled by what they find: the abundance of corn is helping to make fast food cheap and consumers sick; it's driving animals into confinement and farmers off the land. They confront Earl Butz, the original architect of modern subsidies, and then return to Iowa to watch their 10,000-pound harvest fill the combine's hopper and make its way into America's food.
Their acre, they realize, shouldn't be planted in corn again -- if they can help it.
To learn more about the film and the issues, visit the companion website for KING CORN. Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmakers, and explore the subject in depth with links and resources. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions.
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