Of the five nominated documentary films, I have only been able to see three (the other two are not out on DVD yet). The three that I have seen are all fantastic and different. I recommend seeing them.
Food, Inc. is available on DVD and Netflix has it on Watch It Now. The film takes a look at the food industry and where our food comes from. The viewer might already be aware of some of the information, such as meat coming from factory farms, but the film lets you see what is actually involved in the treatment of animals at factory farms. What I really liked about the film is that it is not pushing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle; instead it wants the viewer to start asking about the origins of our food. The film even brings attention to the soybean industry and a company who is pushing small farmers out of business by bullying them with their genetically modified soybeans. My favorite part involves a Virginia farmer who raises his animals in the fields, eating grass, and sells the meat himself. He talks about the quality of the animals’ lives and the quality of the meat. I would love to be a patron at his store! It’s a very well done film.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers is currently showing at my local indie theatre. It tells the story of Daniel Ellsberg, who started out helping the government build a case for the Vietnam war. As time went on, he changed his mind about the purpose of the war and turned against it. He believed the amount of information the government was hiding from the general public was corrupt and decided to release top-secret documents to the press. He was accused of being a traitor. A case went to the Supreme Court over the involvement of the press. It was the beginning of the end for Nixon and the war. This is a fascinating look at the inner workings of the government, the freedom of the press, and the power of the individual. This would be a great film for teens to show them what just a few people can accomplish.
The Cove is also on DVD now. It investigates the dolphin industry in Japan where dolphins are captured and sold to aquariums. The dolphins not purchased are slaughtered. One of the men who fight the practice was the dolphin trainer on Flipper. The treatment of “Flipper” after the show ended opened his eyes to the problems of dolphins in captivity. He has devoted himself to fighting it since he believes the show helped created the dolphin performance industry. The movie talks about the intelligence of dolphins, the way they respond to humans in the ocean, and the stress they undergo when living in captivity. The group of people who facilitate the capture and slaughter in Japan are terrifying. They fight to keep people and cameras away, knowing that what they are doing is not right. (The end result of the dolphin meat is also extremely shady.) The filmmakers manage to hide high-def cameras in the area and capture the slaughter on film. This part of the movie is not for anyone who is squeamish at the sight of blood. This movie gets in to the viewer on an emotional level that the other two films do not, appealing to the connection between humans and animals. Because of this, I feel the need to check into the film’s claims, but if the film is fact, I do not think I can ever patronize a Sea World-type place or swim with dolphins without compromising myself.
All three films are great and I recommend them. I wish I was able to watch the other two before the ceremony, but they are not out on DVD yet. I’m not sure yet which win I think will win, but any of these three would make me happy.