King Corn is a fascinating documentary that uncovers the hidden world of corn. Yup, that stuff that cones in cans, and popped at the movie theaters. Aaron Woolf and his two guinea pig farmers, Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis head off to Iowa for a year to uncover the truth behind this highly subsidized crop. Is corn naughty or nice?

I had the opportunity to set down with Aaron and discuss this wonderful movie.

Thanks for taking some time out to chat with Bloggernews. How did you get involved in this project. And who was the mastermind?

That’s an interesting question, there really was not one single person. There is a mythical animal, a dog, Cerberus that has three heads, it was all three heads Ian, Curtis and myself that created King Corn. Curtis is actually my cousin, and we have been great friends for many years. The whole endeavor was very collaborative. I had just finished making a documentary about Human Trafficking and I was up for a new adventure. I have had lots of previous adventures, in fact my first job out of college was being a crab fisherman in the Bering Sea.

Oh, like Discovery’s Deadliest Catch?

Yes, but this was before that show. But it was just as deadly back then. I spent a good deal of the time throwing up, the ocean and me just did not get on well. The captain just laughed at me! I was actually toying with the idea of doing a Crab movie, but Corn seemed so much safer. Iowa is also a lot warmer.

Did the objective of King Corn change over time, or had you figured out the plot before hand?

We knew that Corn was based on a false premise. But much of the movie we had no control over, the burning of the old grain elevator, and the closing of the local school because of lack of students, are good examples. Because of Ian and Curtis’s ties to the area, both their Great Grandfathers lived in the town, we were accepted. Truth is though, even the farmers knew the Corn business is screwy.

The ‘locals’ came across as quite open and helpful, have they seen the movie?

Yes, well at least Chuck liked it. He was the farmer that we rented the land from, and he is the farmer at the end of the movie seen in the auction scene. He sold everything and has got out of the business. Of course not everyone is happy with us, there is one bad review that claims we are ‘anti farming’. My favorite tho is an article where the author admits to not having seen the movie, but tells the reader ‘Ian and Curtis wasted a year of their lives growing corn, don’t waste an hour of yours watching this film’.

King Corn premiers in New York tomorrow. I guess you are all pretty excited about that?

Yes we are! I have made several documentaries, and I thought the pinnacle was seeing them on PBS. I mean that’s not bad, you are successful. This is different, a theatrical premier. This is something I could not have imagined. Cinema Village is the location.

Where is it going after New York?

We have 15 or 16 cities signed up,. Washington DC, Boston, LA, Austin, Portland, and we keep getting more.

Making an Indy movie is a tough business, how did you finance it. I recently interviewed Jason Kohn (Manda Bala) and his solution was to sell his car and saxophone!

Hahaha unless he has a Ferrari he would have needed to sell more than that! Actually I loved Manda Bala, it is one of my favorite movies of the year. Financing was a problem. I had just finished up a film about Human Trafficking, the sex and drug trade, the budget for that had been right around the million dollar mark. I felt pretty confident talking to the ‘Money guys’, so I gave my pitch. They were reaching for their wallets, then one of them said “King Porn, great idea”. No not Porn, Corn! They could not see how a movie about corn could make money. I was right back at square one, I was making my first movie all over again. It’s funny really, this is the first movie to make it to the theater.

A fun question, have you changed your eating habits?

Yes it has. I will never become a vegetarian but I do go out of my way to avoid corn fed beef. Unfortunatlly grass fed is $25 a pound. I just don’t eat as much! I remember going with my mom to the butcher, I even remember his name, Mr Olefskensky, This guy wore a white coat, and he was always covered in blood. He would occasionally have ‘corn fed’ meat, it was a treat, corn helped fatten the cow. But today it is used to excess, corn is bad for the cow, it is ‘fast food’ to them. And that fast food passes onto us. We live in a much more obese world than out forefathers.

I think that the movie makes it clear that you, Ian and Curtis, are not very happy with the current situation. What is the solution?

There is no simple solution. When we went to see Earl Butts, now in his 90’s, I was expecting to find the evil person that had created this nightmare. But I didn’t. What I found was a guy that had just done what was asked of him by the President ‘Make food plentiful, and cheap’. He fulfilled his mission.

I don’t want to give away the ending of King Corn, but I have to say that I was impressed.

Yes, there are not too many movies that end up owning real estate afterwards!

Authors note – If you have the chance to see this movie, please do take the time out. It is well worth the effort. Something like 3% of all movies make it to the theater, the other 97% scramble around just to even get to the DVD stage.

King Corn is a great movie, filmed on a shoestring, but very rich in content. What it lacks in Speilberg it more than makes up for in heart. Are we destined to be the first generation that are actually shortening our own lifespan because of our eating habits? Well, I will leave that choice up to you. I am 51, and to quote Aaron ‘I have corn in my hair’!

Simon Barrett

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