'Fast Food' makes stomachs churn in Cannes

19th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 19, 2006 (AFP) – 'Fast Food Nation', a sometimes stomach-churning movie criticising the junk-food industry and consumerism in the United States, has found a sympathetic audience at its Cannes film festival screenings.

CANNES, France, May 19, 2006 (AFP) – 'Fast Food Nation', a sometimes stomach-churning movie criticising the junk-food industry and consumerism in the United States, has found a sympathetic audience at its Cannes film festival screenings.

Made by US director Richard Linklater, the film belongs to the same breed of celluloid essays opposed to big business and US President George W. Bush as previous Cannes winner 'Fahrenheit 911' or 'Supersize Me'. Only here the disturbing facts are dunked in a coating of satirical fiction.

A suprisingly hefty ensemble cast including Greg Kinnear, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Kris Kristofferson, singer Avril Lavigne and even an uncredited cameo by Bruce Willis give voice to the message that the United States is being taken over by a soulless "machine" of corporate profiteering at the expense of human health and dignity.

Kinnear plays an executive of a fast-food hamburger group (called Mickey's but easily recognisable as McDonald's) sent out to discover why the meat in a top-selling burger is contaminated with high levels of excrement.

What he glimpses — and what the viewer sees in detail backed up by documentary footage — is a disturbing industry where illegal Mexican immigrants working on meat preparation lines are treated with no more respect than the product they are slicing and eviscerating.

His character, though, is no hero, and he shrinks away from confronting the system — as do most ordinary people.

"The truth is there are many people in giant corporations" who are uneasy with what they are required to do, Kinnear told a media confernece here. "But they've got families to feed and jobs to keep."

The driving corporate imperative to create profits by cutting costs and quality — and to hide the practice behind cynical marketing and even patriotic rhetoric — is depicted as cancer spreading well beyond the junk-food sector and into every aspect of living in the United States.

The movie is based on a bestselling nonfiction book by journalist Eric Schlosser, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Linklater.

He said the jolt his book dealt to the US public had much to do with when it came out: in January 2001.

"That's significant, because that's the month that our president took office," he said, suggesting that his country was feeling betrayed by big business and its close ties with the Bush administration.

Although the film starts out stronger than it finishes, there was pointed applause at its Cannes press screening, especially at the moment when it attacked the US Patriot Act as unpatriotic.

Uncomfortable laughter broke out when it became clear that US consumers were being compared to mindless cows destined for the slaughterhouse and scenes of butchery left many feeling queasy.

Linklater, who made the Hollywood crowd-pleasers 'The School of Rock' and 'Bad News Bears' as well as the critically acclaimed 'Before Sunrise', said he eschewed making a straight documentary of the subject because he wanted to concentrate on the characters involved.

"I think the film can only be seen in political terms, but the characters don't think that way," he said.

The big-name actors signed on because they had read the book and wanted to be involved in getting its message out, he said.

"This is really about unveiling things and becoming aware," he said, adding that "the industrialisation of food is huge" everywhere.

Its British producer, Jeremy Thomas, also warned journalists not to be complacent by seeing the film as only targeting the United States.

"I would think it (the film) is as relevant in the UK as in any other country," he said.

The film is one of 20 competing for the Cannes festival's Palme d'Or to be awarded on May 28.

Its real test, though, will come when it gets its release in the United States, scheduled for October.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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