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King Corn' Filmmakers to Lecture on Sustainability Issues

(Posted January 28, 2013)

Ian Cheyney, left and Curt Ellis, right, with beard, have turned a fascination with the food system into careers as filmmakers and activists.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Two documentary filmmakers, Ian Cheyney and Curt Ellis, have taken a simple idea -- to look at how things grow -- and adapted the inspiration into a series of films on how agriculture affects the world. They will talk about their projects and show clips from some of their film and advocacy projects at Juniata College at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 5, in Alumni Hall in the Brumbaugh Academic center.

The presentation is free and open to the public. The lecture is made possible through the Calvert Ellis Endowment.

Ellis and Cheyney came to national prominence when the two recent college graduates moved to Iowa and farmed one acre of farmland to grow corn. Their intention was to make a documentary film following the path an acre of corn takes into the national and international food system. The subsequent film, "King Corn," won several awards and became a national sensation for "foodie" activists. It was released theatrically in 2009 and received a Peabody Award the same year.

After the release of "King Corn," Cheyney continued his film career, directing a documentary about the construction of Boston's first "green" building, called "The Greening of Southie" and a documentary called "Truck Farm" that follows Cheyney across the United States as he visits various urban farms -- while he tends his own vegetable plot growing in the back of the truck he's driving.

Cheyney's latest film is "The City Dark," a documentary examination of how the United States is losing darkness as lights from urban areas alter the night sky.

Cheyney and Ellis recently received a Heinz Award in 2011 for "using humor to engage people about sustainable food." The two 31-year-olds were the youngest recipients ever to earn Heinz Award and split the $100,000 prize.

Ellis is executive director and co-founder (with Cheyney) of FoodCorps, a nonprofit agency that places motivated volunteers in limited-resource communities for a year of public service. Cheyney and Ellis recently received a Heinz Award in 2011 for "using humor to engage people about sustainable food." The two 31-year-olds were the youngest recipients ever to earn Heinz Award and split the $100,000 prize.

Cheyney and Ellis started their food activism early. When they met at Yale University, the collaborated to establish a new college dining system that established collaborations with local farms and agricultural producers and connecting local school cafeterias to local food resources.

Each of their collaborations is designed to inspire like-minded students or citizens to start sustainable food programs. For example, after the release of "Truck Farm," about 25 volunteers driving trucks with growing gardens in their storage bed toured the country, teaching children about healthy eating.
Ellis spends much of his time supervising the efforts of Food Corps, while Cheyney directs Wicked Delicate, a film production organization that focuses their material on sustainable agriculture and the food system

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.