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Documentary Filmmaker to Discuss Why Corn is ‘King’ in American Farming

Published on November 23, 2010

SELINSGROVE—Filmmaker Ian Cheney will address local audiences at the screening of his films “King Corn” and “Big River” at Susquehanna University Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. Part of Susquehanna’s sustainability film series, both showings in Seibert Hall’s Isaacs Auditorium are free and open to the public.

Cheney, who received bachelor's and master's degrees from Yale University, will introduce his films and be available for questions and discussion afterward. He co-created and starred in the Peabody Award-winning documentary “King Corn,” in which he and best friend Curt Ellis move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. According to DVD publisher Bullfrog Films, “with the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America's most productive, most subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and how we farm.”

In “Big River,” Cheney and Ellis return to Iowa to investigate the environmental impact their acre of corn has had on the people and places downstream. Bullfrog Films says, “Half of Iowa's topsoil, they learn, has been washed out to sea. Fertilizer runoff has spawned a hypoxic 'dead zone' in the Gulf. And back at their acre, the herbicides they used are blamed for a cancer cluster that reaches all too close to home.” “Big River” asks if industrial agriculture is worth its hidden costs.

Cheney also directed the feature documentary “The Greening of Southie.” He is currently directing and producing “The City Dark,” a feature documentary about light pollution, and “Truck Farm,” a short film on urban agriculture. With longtime collaborator Ellis, Cheney runs Wicked Delicate, a documentary and advocacy project in Brooklyn, N.Y. Wicked Delicate maintains a .001-acre farm in the back of a 1986 Dodge pickup truck, and is part of a planning process to develop FoodCorps, a national school garden and farm-to-school program.

Susquehanna’s sustainability film series reflects Susquehanna’s university theme for the 2010–11 academic year, A Sustainable Future. The films tackle issues that hit most people close to home, addressing food production and safety, energy and alternative fuels, consumerism and fair trade. Showings are followed by panel discussions moderated by faculty members or, as in the case of “King Corn,” led by filmmakers. The final film in the series, “Razing Appalachia,” is scheduled for Dec. 8 at 7:30 in Isaacs Auditorium. The film depicts how lifelong residents of tiny Blair, W.Va., fought efforts by America’s second largest coal company to expand strip mining near their Appalachian hollow.

For more information on the film series, visit www.susqu.edu/filmseries.

Founded in 1858, Susquehanna University is a residential, national liberal arts college that prepares undergraduate students for achievement, leadership and service in a diverse, interconnected world. Academic excellence, study away and service learning, student-faculty collaboration, and rich opportunities for creative and personal growth are hallmarks of a Susquehanna University education. Nearly 2,300 students come to Susquehanna from 36 states and 13 countries, and more than 90 percent of them find jobs or pursue graduate study within six months of graduation. The university is located in central Pennsylvania, in the town of Selinsgrove, along the banks of the scenic Susquehanna River and about three hours from major East Coast cultural, financial and recreational centers. For more information, visit www.susqu.edu.

Karen M. Jones

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