Observations: Movies with a conscience

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The Independent Culture

It's not just blue aliens who lucked in at Tuesday's Oscar nominations. What the fragrant Anne Hathaway and Academy president Tom Sherak failed to mention upon rolling through this year's nominees in front of global audiences was a small victory for right-thinking folk everywhere. Food Inc., a documentary released in Britain a week today, takes on everything from animal abuse in American food production to the relative price of crisps and carrots. It won a place in a golden envelope for Best Documentary.

Whatever the result on 7 March, there's one person who won't be stage-bound. Andy Whittaker is the chief executive of Dogwoof, Food Inc.'s British distributor, and a man who rates ethics over traditional bottom lines. He founded Dogwoof in 2003 after a successful career in investment banking and says he aims to trumpet "advocacy" over bums on seats. Food Inc.'s website has a petition section calling for healthier foods in US schools (50,000 signatures were delivered to Congress last June).

Other films on Dogwoof's roster include Afghan Star (about reality TV in Afghanistan) and The Age of Stupid (a drama-documentary about climate change). And its films Burma VJ, which follows high-risk journalism in Burma, and The Milk of Sorrow, on sexual abuse in Peru, are also up for Academy Awards this year.

"The banking crisis shows that everyone purely chasing financial reward isn't always right, and that's mirrored in the film industry," says Whittaker. "We are not trying to be preachy. We want to be a catalyst for change and luckily we are at a point in cinema where there are more film-makers making progressive, interesting films."

'Food, Inc.' is released on 12 February, with a special day of nationwide one-off screenings on 15 Feb ( foodincmovie.co.uk )

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