The Skinny on Oscar-Nominated Documentaries 'Food Inc.' and 'The Cove'
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TL: To me one of the shocking numbers in the film were the figures for diabetes, which you mentioned -- 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 and 1 in 2 who are minorities -- are there people in the health community who are drawing these connections?
RK: Oh yeah, that's why we can't have health care reform without fixing that. Diabetes is going to be so expensive. I really hope that we battle this idea of elitism, that people say that the can only afford bad food. That's why I think that family in the film was so important, because we have people who have a hard time paying for healthier, less-processed food, but meanwhile, they are now paying for it in their health care costs. The invisible costs are becoming very real for them, and how many people in that community have diabetes is astounding. They could not believe I didn't know someone without Type 2 Diabetes.
TL: So, based on everything you've learned in this film, do you think of our food as being safe to eat?
RK: I try not to eat industrialized foods as much. What is the bigger danger, is the idea of how they figure out how to deliver salt, sugar and fat to us. Sixty-four percent of Americans are either overweight or obese. I think, like tobacco they are trying to figure out how to sell you a product that is a bit addicting, and they are using billions of dollars of advertising, and they are training kids to do it at an early age, and they are overwhelming taste buds. So that's the scary part.
TL: One of the things I liked in the film was talking, not just about the environmental and health impacts of the food we are eating, but about the labor laws and the treatment of the workers in some of the processing plants.
RK: For me, one of the shocks of making this film was that at every rural location we went to there were parts of towns that only spoke Spanish and that our food is grown and processed by illegal immigrants, and it is really this hypocritical world that we live in because we are depending on them to deliver this inexpensive food to the supermarket, but yet we also don't want them in our communities because people think it taxes communities -- the health care and schools.
But unfortunately, the people who get arrested are the workers who are working hard and doing their part, and the reason they are being hired is because they are doing difficult, dangerous, low-paying jobs, and only people without rights would want to do that work. And that for me was as important as talking about how the animals are mistreated -- I tried not to even go there. But people are always shocked by animal mistreatment in the film, and I didn't think I even put it in.
TL: I think there were some pretty gruesome scenes.
RK: God, I was just talking with my editor, and we thought we took them out. What you don't see in this film, and I didn't even want to go there ... you see the chickens, but the fact is that pigs don't move except for the day they are executed, or cows just sit in their own excrement -- you know thousands of them in these giant factory feedlots. We've created megafactories, and it's not just the meat, it is the tomatoes and all the way down the line -- we've created a machine of great efficiency that produces the food rather inexpensively, but it comes with great consequence.