In commemoration of US Thanksgiving, indieWIRE has curated a number of documentaries about food for Hulu’s Documentaries page – we’ll warn you, however, these selections tend toward the darker side, spotlighting what’s wrong with the way we eat and the way we grow our food, while offering practical alternatives.
EDITOR’S NOTE: “indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs” is a regular column spotlighting the iW-curated selections on Hulu’s Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. iW selections 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.
While it’s not traditionally served on Thanksgiving, we’ll begin our review of this week’s selections on the lighter side, with an appreciation for a particularly American staple, the hamburger, in Gary Licker and Dan Linck’s “Burger Town.” The film explores the popular sandwich and the fast food culture which has popularized it since the middle of the 20th Century, focusing especially on Los Angeles’ role in the process. Savor the guilty pleasure while you can, because the rest of the films won’t exactly encourage you to go through that drive-thru too often…
The opposite is suggested in Julia Grayer and Gage Johnston’s “Chow Down,” in which three men attempt to combat life-threatening health conditions by making radical changes to their diets. For them, shifting to a plant-based diet may be the answer to reversing heart disease and diabetes instead of invasive surgery or a regiment of medication. Inspirational without sugarcoating the difficulty of making such a change, the film celebrates self-determination when it comes to health.
Another doc that may make you think twice about what you’re eating is Don McCorkell’s “A River of Waste: The Hazardous Truth About Factory Farms,” an exposé of the environmental and health hazards which can be traced to the waste generated by American industrial agricultural production. The film looks at meat and poultry factory farms and their use of dangerous chemicals and growth hormones, as well as the sewage that pollutes water systems.
While we’re on a more environmentally-minded track, consider the potential alternative uses of the vegetable oil fast food and other industries go through in massive quantities by watching JJ Beck and Joey Carey’s “Greasy Rider”. The filmmakers take a cross-country roadtrip powered by waste vegetable oil, using the opportunity to consider questions of green energy vs fossil fuel as they visit with a varied array of cultural critics and celebrities, such as Noam Chomsky, Morgan Freeman, Tommy Chong, and Yoko Ono, making the doc a nice match with the films from last week’s selections.
And as a bonus, Hulu has other food-related docs to check out, including Deborah Koons Garcia’s sobering “The Future of Food,” a probing and critical look at the American agricultural industries’ use of genetically modified foods, and of course Morgan Spurlock’s ever-popular “Super Size Me.”
ABOUT THE WRITER: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, and recently co-produced Cameron Yates’ feature documentary “The Canal Street Madam.” Follow him on Twitter (@1basil1 and @CanalStMadamDoc) and visit his blog (what (not) to doc).