food Program

Film Review - Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation, Fox Searchlight Pictures

Some films are created to do more than just entertain. Fast Food Nation is one of these films, produced with the goal of educating consumers and mobilizing them to make positive change in the food system. It was created by Participant Productions, and released along with a social action campaign that draws upon the expertise of Sustainable Table and other like-minded organizations. As part of this campaign, Sustainable Table created The Meatrix II ½, the third installment of the Meatrix series, which focuses on industrial meat processing. Additionally, the campaign’s first action (in a series of social actions surrounding Fast Food Nation’s release) features Eat Well Guide as a way of directing consumers to sustainable food sources.

Like the social action campaign, the film uses a combination of entertainment and information to draw in viewers, educate them about real-life issues, and mobilize them to act.

Based on Schlosser’s 2001 best-selling book of the same title, Fast Food Nation engages audiences in two hours of imagery and dialogue illustrating the complicated and often disturbing truth behind our burgers and fries. It brings us along on a journey across the US/Mexico border, where Mexicans risk their lives to reach the American dream: a minimum-wage job at an industrial cattle slaughterhouse. We are also escorted into the home and office of a major fast food chain marketing executive, and into the kitchen of one of the chain’s franchises, where teenagers run fryers and mix shakes.

Throughout Fast Food Nation, we're exposed to the complexities and power struggles that characterize the fast food industry – and perhaps our food system as a whole – but somehow we're spared the grueling experience of hearing a lecture. This isn’t a documentary, however, but a feature film that follows a fictional storyline and includes a cast that is chock-full of big names like Greg Kinnear, Bruce Willis and Patricia Arquette. This film tells a story and communicates a strong message without the use of preachy narration (thankfully), and instead relies on strong imagery and detailed dialogue.

But despite its fictional plot, the movie is glaringly real. It paints a graphic picture of the fast food industry and does not hesitate to expose us to some of the most gruesome realities involved in meat production (it features one scene where we see a cattle slaughter, and another where a factory worker’s leg is amputated by a meat grinder). The film has a powerful ability to educate audiences about the food system, and is liable to make even the most apathetic viewer start thinking about where their food comes from. 

Rated R, the film isn’t appropriate for children or the weak-of-stomach, but we at Sustainable Table hope that every American adult takes the time to watch Fast Food Nation.  

You can read more about factory farming slaughterhouses, and meat processing on our website.

Watch the Fast Food Nation trailerand check out Participant Productions' social action website, Take Action!