Culture

The Best Documentaries We've Seen, Inspired by Eating Animals

Jonathan Safran Foer/Photo © Lev Radin/Shutterstock

Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, his 2010 book discussing the processes of by-catch and slaughterhouse practices, is getting the documentary treatment. With vegan superstar Natalie Portman producing, the doc will examine the dietary choices of mankind, including the factory farms and fisheries from where that food may originate. This upcoming exposé has got us here at Signature thinking about other mainstream documentaries that put a finger directly on the pulse of America.

Michael Moore's Canon
Instead of listing his work individually, we'll just give overall credit to the man himself. While he had been a working director since 1989 (during which time he made the 1995 John Candy satire "Canadian Bacon), Moore became a household name in 2002 with "Bowling for Columbine," a hard-hitting documentary about guns and violence in the United States, pegged to the massacre at Columbine High School. It won the Anniversary Prize at the Cannes Film Festival before winning Best Documnetary Feature at the Oscars the same year, and became the highest-grossing documentary film at the time; its record was only surpassed by Moore's 2004 follow-up, "Fahrenheit 9/11." Examining the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush administration and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, "Fahrenheit 9/11" was awarded the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Next, he tackled the health care system and pharmaceutical industries with "Sicko," which ranked the fourth-highest-grossing documentary of all time.

"An Inconvenient Truth" (2006)
Winning the 2006 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, "An Inconvenient Truth" follows former Vice President Al Gore's campaign to spread awareness of global warming via a comprehensive slideshow with which he toured the country. The film's producers, inspired by the blockbuster "The Day After Tomorrow," commissioned director Davis Guggenheim to follow and chronicle Gore's tour.

"Inside Job" (2010)
The 2010 Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature is a comprehensive analysis of the global financial crisis of 2008, the worst since the Great Depression, causing millions of people to lose their jobs and homes. Charles Ferguson, director of "Inside Job," was also nominated for an Oscar in 2008 for his work on the documentary "No End in Sight," an examination of the Bush Administration's activity tied to the Iraq war. Next up, Ferguson has a Wikileaks project and Hillary Clinton project in the works.

"Forks Over Knives" (2011)
Lee Fulkerson's 2011 documentary advocates that a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet is means for combating a number of diseases. Going beyond the vegan initiative, Fulkerson made sure to comment that vegans are still able to consume highly processed foods, urging people to consume only minimally processed goods. "Forks Over Knives" was Fulkerson's documentary debut.

"Who Killed the Electric Car?" (2006)
This 2006 documentary by Chris Paine chronicles the creation and subsequent destruction of energy-efficient and pollution-free electric cars, tested in California in the mid-nineties. It features interviews with the engineers and technicians, as well as celebrities who used the cars, such as Ed Begley Jr., Tom Hanks, and Mel Gibson. Martin Sheen lent his voice to the narration and Painem received a Writers Guild of America nomination for Documentary Screenplay Award. In 2011, Paine revisited the topic with "Revenge of the Electric Car" - this time featuring Tim Robbins as narrator with appearances by Danny DeVito, Stephen Colbert, Jon Favreau, Anthony Kiedis, and others.

"Super Size Me" (2004)
Documentarian Morgan Spurlock put his own health at risk to chronicle the bodily effects of consuming nothing but McDonald's fast food for thirty days straight. Showing physical change - as well as mental change including mood swings and sexual dysfunction - Spurlock's film is at once hilarious, nauseating, and nerve-wracking. The film went on to earn Spurlock an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, and sent him home for the Writers Guild of America Awards with a trophy for Documentary Screenplay. Since then, Spurlock has gone on to direct seven more documentaries.

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