"King Corn" is a new film that premiered in the Bay Area this past weekend. In it, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis --best friends from college -- plant an acre of corn in Iowa and attempt to track its path into the food chain. I caught up with director Aaron Woolf, whom I knew of from our undergraduate years at a small college in Vermont.
Meghan Laslocky: Can you give us a "before starting the film/after starting the film" picture of your dietary habits?
Aaron Woolf: Before I started working on "King Corn", I don't think I really understood that there was a connection between the way we grow things and the fact that we aren't eating well in this country, which seems pretty obvious now. I came from a family that always ate well, but the way people eat now, like Curt, my cousin [producer and on-screen talent in "King Corn"] who is a generation younger, versus how people ate when I was a kid, is so different. When I was a kid, we went to the wholesale seafood market, mussels were 17 cents a pound because Americans didn't eat them, and we got our meat at a butcher, Mr. Olishefsky, who wore a white gown covered in blood. Behind him in the walk-in cooler were sides of beef. It wasn't a mystery to me as a child where meat came from -- I knew it was a cut-up animal. But I think if you grew up in Curt's generation, the disconnect is pretty major. I think that's one of the lessons of the film: that Curt and Ian are of the cornfed generation, and I am less so, and it took so little time -- the sixteen years that separate us in age -- for that major shift to happen.
Initially, when I started this film, when people asked me about how making the film has changed my eating habits, I'd say, "It's changed the way I wish I ate." But now that the film is done, it's definitely changed the way I eat, and I don't eat fast food. It's instinctive now. What we choose to eat is such a combination of knowledge and religion and training. It's hard to change your diet simply because it's better to do x rather than y, but after seeing feedlots with 100,000 head of cattle -- that's something that's hard to get out of your mind when you look at a hamburger.