As Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving weekend with food and family, this week's Indiewire-curated selections on Hulu's Documentaries page explore our at-times complicated relationship with both the good and the bad that we put into our bodies.
When director Morgan Spurlock decided to put his own body through the challenge of eating nothing but McDonald's for an entire month, the result, "Super Size Me," became a breakout hit at Sundance. The film secured an Oscar nomination after its theatrical release, and media attention around the film contributed to the fast food chain's decision to push healthier menu options.
While Spurlock ended up gaining a significant amount of weight during the course of his doc, the two subjects of Joe Cross and Kurt Engfehr's "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" begin at morbidly obese sizes. Joe discards junk food in favor of fresh fruits and vegetables, and sets off on the road for two months to slim down. Along the way, he meets trucker Phil, who becomes inspired by Joe to slim down from his own 400+ lb weight.
If the previous selections don't make you think about your own diet choices, Emiko Omori's "Ripe for Change" should. Focused on California, where fast food was born, the doc looks at the political dimension of food, as issues of agriculture, technology, and genetic engineering come up against social justice, health, and sustainability.
The sobering "The Future of Food" narrows in on the issue of genetic engineering. Deborah Koons Garcia's doc explores the US agricultural industry's use of genetically modified foods, and the controversy behind seed patenting, which has led to monopolies over the production of certain types of crops and catastrophic lawsuits for any who deliberately or accidentally cross the corporation.
America's most popular crop is the focus of Aaron Wolf's "King Corn." Two recent college graduates, producers Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis, discover common roots in rural Iowa, and set out to explore just how influential corn is in America's food supply, buying land there and cultivating the crop over the course of a year.
Finally, Doris Dörrie presents a portrait of a popular cookbook author, Zen Buddhist priest, and chef in "How to Cook Your Life." Edward Espe Brown's gospel is organic cooking, and the fundamental and full relationship people should have with their food, in contrast to the disposable and thoughtless way most individuals deal with modern food in its production, processing, packaging, and consumption.
EDITOR'S NOTE: "Indiewire @ Hulu Docs" is a regular column spotlighting the Indiewire-curated selections on Hulu's Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. Indiewire selections typically appear in the carousel at the top of the page and under "Featured Content" in the center. Be sure to check out the great non-fiction projects available to watch free of charge. Disclosure: Some of the selections are titles provided to Hulu by SnagFilms, the parent company of indieWIRE.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance and a consultant to documentary filmmakers and festivals. Follow him on Twitter (@1basil1) and visit his blog (what (not) to doc).