Barry McNamara  |   Published September 13, 2018

Film Series Opens with ‘King Corn’

Public Philosophy and Film Series to open Sept. 20 with Peabody Award-winning 2007 documentary.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – An award-winning film set partially in an Iowa corn field will start the new season of the Monmouth College Public Philosophy and Film Series.

Movie poster of 2007 documentary King Corn. But rather than starring actors Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones and depicting a host of old-time baseball players, King Corn investigates the role that corn plays in what it portrays as an increasingly complicated and dysfunctional American food industry.

King Corn will be shown at 6 p.m. Sept. 20 in the Barnes Electronic Classroom on the lower level of Hewes Library. Free and open to the public, the film will be introduced by Monmouth biology professor Eric Engstrom, who will also lead a post-film discussion.

“I think it will be appealing to a college audience on a number of levels,” said Engstrom, who has used the 2007 film in his classes. “For one, it was made by two recent college graduates, so they were not far removed from the age of our students when it was filmed.”

Engstrom said the Peabody Award-winning film also employs “critical thinking,” as the filmmakers were inspired to create it when they learned that their generation was the first in history not expected to live as long as their parents.

“They talk to researchers about diet, they talk to an agronomist at Iowa State University,” said Engstrom. “Eventually, what they decide to do is rent an acre from a farmer in Iowa (outside of Greene, just north of Waterloo) and grow their own corn. The movie tracks that – what goes into growing an acre of corn.”

A key moment is when the filmmakers travel to a retirement home to interview former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, who headed the federal department from 1971-76.

“He certainly had a role in the transformation of the food industry,” said Engstrom. “This is exactly what he was setting out to do – to make food so cheap and abundant that it ceases to be a concern for Americans. They can worry about other things. Food has never been anywhere as cheap, relatively, as it is now. But the film asks what’s the cost of that? Are we paying for it in other ways? The filmmakers try to answer that question.”

Engstrom said King Corn is likely to stir some debate.

“Were the filmmakers looking for certain answers, or are they really explaining this is a non-partial way? Are the farm families of Iowa represented well? Did the filmmakers leave anything out?” he said.

A review in the Washington Post said the documentary ought to be “required viewing by anyone planning to visit a supermarket, fast-food joint, or their own refrigerator.”

Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Ermine Algaier organized the Public Philosophy and Film Series, which began last spring.

“This series provides an informal, multidisciplinary platform for raising awareness of pressing contemporary public issues,” said Algaier. “Both educational and entertaining, the series aims to provide the campus and Monmouth community with an informal space that intellectually challenges the broader community, while also creating a safe space to confront culturally diverse topics and ideas.”

The other films to be shown in the series this fall are Behind the Lines (1999) on Oct. 25 and Hell House (2001) on Nov. 15.

Back to News & Events

Did you know?

  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College covers the cost for all current students to get a U.S. passport. Unlock access to over 198 different countries! We’ll even help with the paperwork :)</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/study-abroad/" target="_blank">Study Abroad</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers unique academic minors in Global Public Health and Global Food Security for students who want to use their education to address global challenges. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-public-health/" target="_blank">Global Public Health</a></li><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-food-security/" target="_blank">Global Food Security</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 98% of Monmouth graduates were employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/wackerle-center/career-services/" target="_blank">Career Services</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College is proudly test optional. Applicants may choose whether or to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission and scholarship consideration. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/admission/apply/test-optional/" target="_blank">Test Optional</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers several international trips each year during 2-week Scots Terms in January and May. Recently students have traveled to Botswana, Greece, Scotland, Japan, and more. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthcollege.edu/offices/global-engagement/" target="_blank">Scots Term</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College is the birthplace of the women’s fraternity movement. Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi, two of the oldest sororities, were founded at Monmouth in the 1860’s. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/student-life/sororities-fraternities/" target="_blank">Sororities & Fraternities</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Textbooks are included in the cost of tuition at Monmouth College. No need to try to plan for an additional expense, and our students start each semester fully prepared for classes. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/offices/student-financial-planning/tuition-fees/" target="_blank">Tuition & Fees</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We’re no stranger to winning. Last year the Fighting Scots won Midwest Conference championships in Football, Women’s Soccer, Women’s Basketball and Men’s Track and Field. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthscots.com/" target="_blank">Fighting Scots</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an educational garden and 6.7 acre farm. Students grow and harvest fruits and vegetables to sell at the local farmer’s market. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthcollege.edu/academics/only-at-monmouth/educational-garden-farm/" target="_blank">Garden & Farm</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We offer a certified Peace Corps Preparation program that gives Peace Corps bound graduates a leg up in the application process.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/peace-corps-prep/" target="_blank">Peace Corps Prep</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 99% of Monmouth students received some type of scholarship or financial assistance.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/offices/student-financial-planning/types-of-aid/scholarships/" target="_blank">Scholarships</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an active Pipe & Drum Band. Each year on Scholar’s Day in April the bagpipers wake students up at 6:00 a.m. by playing in the residence halls!</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/music/pipe-band/" target="_blank">Pipe Band</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> While we have the Wells Theater on campus, the Theatre department also uses the block-box auditorium Fusion Theatre downtown Monmouth.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/theatre/" target="_blank">Theatre</a></li></ul></div></aside>