Milk in the Land: Ballad of an American Drink (2007)

By Carmichael, Deborah | Film & History, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Milk in the Land: Ballad of an American Drink (2007)


Carmichael, Deborah, Film & History


Milk In The Land: Ballad of An American Drink (2007)

Milk In The Land: Ballad of An American Drink (2007)

Directed, compiled, and edited by Ariana Gerstein and Monteith McCollum

Distributed by Icarus Films

www.icarusfilms.com

75 minutes

This award-winning documentary provides a surprising and creative cinematic exploration of the ubiquitous drink anyone growing up in America was introduced to as a child, from mother's milk to something arriving on the doorstep in glass bottles long ago, to liquid refreshment purchased at the supermarket in plastic jugs, which is now an essential ingrethent for over-priced lattes. Who was not told as a youngster to "drink your milk"? Yet very few Americans probably understand the controversial issues of both the past and present surrounding this refrigerator staple. In addition to the story that Gerstien and McCollum wish to illustrate, they use multiple techniques that are a primer in documentary film production. Film students who are not enticed by a movie on milk will still find this to be a valuable lesson on documentary as a genre using numerous methods to educate ala Grierson.

The film begins by establishing a historical context for the early American dairy industry as an outgrowth of beer and whiskey production. Cows were fed the leavings of alcoholic beverage production in distillery stables. This was not particularly healthy, but most in the nation drank beer and not milk. The early health risks were not considered to be too serious. Later, health concerns and immigrant assimilation would both become the focus of milk consumption.

The filmmakers continue with interviews from both an archeologist and a milk bottle collector filled with pride of ownership. …

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