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Milk in the Land

A Film by Ariana Gerstein & Monteith McCollum

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Milk has long been considered a staple of the American diet, the perfect food, a pure gift of nature. This quirky and entertaining documentary examines the relationship between the popular drink and culture, revealing how milk became America's staple beverage as well as a powerful symbol of American patriotism and progress.

MILK IN THE LAND traces the history of the national consumption of milk, from the mid-19th century swill cow stables-an urban byproduct of distilleries, when Americans drank more beer than milk-to today's industrialized production of homogenized and pasteurized milk, which produces vast surpluses of dairy products stored in underground government depots.

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The film surveys the role of milk throughout American history, politics and popular culture-from government price support programs, links with eugenics and political scandals, to infant feeder collector conventions and cow beauty contests. MILK IN THE LAND imaginatively blends archival footage, period graphics, animation, stop-motion and time-lapse photography, commercials, cartoons, WWII propaganda films, newspaper clippings, and apposite quotations (from Al Capone, Richard Nixon and Groucho Marx to Martin Luther and Gilbert and Sullivan), interspersed between idyllic scenes of mist-shrouded pastoral landscapes with grazing cows.

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MILK IN THE LAND also features interviews with historians, sociologists, physicians, farmers, philosophers, activists, ethicists, and authors, including Melanie Dupuis (Nature's Perfect Food), Noel Foster Feliciano (Early History of American Dairying), Robin Mathers Jenkins (A Garden of Unearthly Delights), Ron Schmid (The Untold Story of Milk), Daniel Block (Hawking Milk), Robert Cohen (Milk-The Deadly Poison) and Jim Sheppard (Re-thinking Cities).

This provocative film will provide viewers with new and surprising insights into this commonplace but iconic American drink and contemporary debates over the nutritional merits of raw vs. pasteurized milk, independent vs. industrial farming techniques, seasonal vs. year-round milking, and whether our land of plenty has been transformed into a land of waste.

"Animation, terrific cinematography and original music enhance the message of the implications of industrialization in our lives, the lives of animals and in the food chain."-Ry Pride, Newcity Film

"Eye-opening… maintains an ethereal tone, greatly abetted by Mark Hadsell's songs and McCollum's carnivalesque score."-Joshua Katzman, The Chicago Reader

"Spooky, sad, and perhaps a little cautionary… a memorable documentary."—Marty Mapes, Movie Habit

"This inventively historicized documentary unearths the sundry political, moral, and scientific platforms that got milk to its current post as beleaguered alpha beverage… an investigation that leaves no cow unturned."—Flavorpill

"Truly captivating… makes clear that nature's perfect food is inextricably bound to the social history of America."—Lisa Tucker, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture

"A highly original essay documentary. Food for thought."—Sheffield International Documentary Festival program

"Fascinating… a truly haunting portrait of industrialization."—HotDocs Festival program

OAH Organization of American Historian Conference 2009
HotDocs International Documentary Festival
Nashville International Film Festival
Atlanta Film Festival
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

75 minutes / Color
Release: 2008
Copyright: 2007

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Agriculture, American Studies, Anthropology, Economics, Food, Health Issues, History (U.S.)

Watch the trailer:

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