An Analysis of the Documentary Food Matters (1998), Movie Analysis Example

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Movie Analysis

What is the rhetorical situation (purpose, audience, stance, genre, media/design) of the documentary? Use Google to help you learn more about when the documentary was created and why. Who is the intended audience? What is the purpose? What is the stance?

The rhetorical situation of the 1998 documentary Food Matters presents an argument against the contemporary food and medicine industries, insofar as these industries are construed as causing a wide-range of current health problems. The authors of the film argue that a return to a diet made up of fresh and natural food products may reduce health concerns, as opposed to the continued reliance on pharmaceutical drugs and mass-produced food, which only perpetuate health problems. By presenting the film in a documentary format, the authors therefore attempt to persuade the audience with a reliance on professional opinions presented by various experts and specialists in fields that are relevant to the film’s thesis. These opinions are juxtaposed with older American documentaries lauding the mass production of food, a juxtaposition that supports the film’s case, as the age of the latter documentaries makes their claims appear archaic. Accordingly, because of the ubiquity of food and health concerns in everyday life, the audience that Food Matters reaches is extremely broad: it is precisely the consumers of food and medicine, which is thus the entire American population.

Look up the main interviewees to see what their expertise is in—or if they are actually experts in their fields. Are their fields legitimate in your opinion? Why?

The main interviewees in the film all work in some professional manner in the fields of nutrition, food and medicine. Nevertheless, the quality of the credentials of the various interviewees is quite disparate. For example, trained medical doctors such as Dan Rogers, Professor Ian Brighthop, who is both a medical doctor and surgeon, and Andrew W. Saul, who holds a doctorate in therapeutic nutrition, all included as experts in the film. These degreed individuals add credibility to the thesis of Food Matters, insofar as they have achieved the highest educational recognition from their peers. Nevertheless, the film also relies heavily on non-credentialed interviewees, such as David Wolfe, an advocate for raw foods, and Charlotte Gerson, the daughter of Max Gerson, a German physician who developed a controversial and unsupported cancer therapy treatment in the mid-twentieth century. Hence, whereas the group of credentialed academics provides a credible voice to the film’s arguments, the uncredentialed interviewees somewhat detract from the strength of the film’s message, as their claims have not been evaluated by their peers, for example, in the form of the acquiring of degrees or the publishing of articles in blind reviewed journals.

What kind(s) of evidence is/are provided to the viewer? Is valid evidence being provided?

The film relies heavily on expert testimony alongside empirical and statistical data, giving Food Matters‘ main argument a legitimate scientific support. However, despite the apparent validity of these statistics, it would be more beneficial for the filmmakers to explicitly cite their sources. Furthermore, empirical data can notoriously be interpreted in different manners, thus engendering diverse opinions.

What kind(s) of visual rhetoric are being provided to the viewer? Is it persuasive? Why?

The visual rhetoric of the film can be considered to a certain extent somewhat minimal, as the majority of the film consists in close-up shots of the interviewers. Nevertheless, this can also be considered a form of persuasion, as it gives the film an air of credibility: the reliance on an overabundance of visual rhetoric would give the film an atmosphere of so-called “infotainment”, and thus detract from the legitimacy of the argument the filmmakers present.

What are some topics in the documentary that you want to or could do more research into? What could you write an argumentative research paper about? What interests you?

To the extent that the film presents a wide abundance of compelling topics, numerous issues surface which would be of interest for further research. Firstly, the foundational thesis of the film concerning food nutrition is obviously a topic to be addressed: i.e., what is the current scientific data regarding the effects of Vitamin C, for example, according to peer-reviewed journals? Furthermore, the film makes an interesting connection between capitalism and a consumerist society that deliberately suppresses the benefits of natural foods. In this regard, the ideological structure of the society itself is that, which creates the unhealthy situation of its citizens, as issues of profit become more important than issues of health. Furthermore, the notion of factory farming, although not made explicit in the film, would also merit investigation: the treating of the production of food as an industry appears to be a crucial factor in creating the situation which Food Matters critiques.

The topic of how the social ideology of capitalism and profit negatively affects health is of particular interest to me personally, because it presents a complex network of relations, in which ideological decisions directly affect the health of the human body.

 

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