New film delves into the complexities of meat production
While Stephen Spielberg's latest film, "Lincoln," and Graham Meriwether's "American Meat" both feature compelling storylines and engaging characters, there won't be any screaming headlines about a hot and heavy box office smackdown. And not just because the A-list actors in "Lincoln" and its upwards-of-$65-million budget dwarf the $250,000 Meriwether spent to make his movie about the farmers who raise the meat we put on our tables.
Meriwether is eschewing theaters for a more direct and, he feels, effective way to engage with his audiences.
"We're using a very unconventional distribution model," he said at a recent screening held at Cinema 21 in Northwest Portland. While most filmmakers apply to festivals such as Sundance or the Toronto International Film Festival and look for a distributor to pick up their film, he said his aim was to get "American Meat" directly to farmers. This fall, he premiered the film at the national conference of the Future Farmers of America (FFA), an organization for young people interested in becoming farmers. He's now screening the film at FFA chapters around the country, as well as at select colleges and universities with strong agricultural programs.
Like other current films about the food system, such as "King Corn," "The Future of Food" and "Food, Inc.," "American Meat" addresses the dysfunction that many say lies at the base of the current U.S. agricultural system, which, with its dependence on large agribusiness concerns and its ties to giant chemical companies, has slowly squeezed out small family farms.