Filmmaker starts week as Allen’s Guest-in-Residence

While his award-winning documentary “King Corn” brought to light the role corn plays in society, filmmaker and environmental advocate Ian Cheney is spreading a broader message during his week as the Guest-in-Residence at Allen Hall.

From Sunday through Thursday, Cheney will hold a session each night to screen his films and discuss the related issues. Each screening begins at 7 p.m. in the South Recreation Room in Allen Hall and is followed by a discussion in the Guest Apartment at 9 p.m.

Rather than focusing on his documentaries during the opening program Sunday afternoon, Cheney talked about how his filmmaking started with a feeling that he was disconnected from something fundamental. He said everyone is surrounded by stuff, but that they don’t know anything about it.

“I think when I was going to college, a lot of facts and realities were crystallizing for many people,” Cheney said in an interview. “There were a lot of forward thinkers like Michael Pollan and others who were pushing forward this idea that the more we know about our food, and its real implications in the world, the better decisions we can make and the better we can make the world.”

The decision to know more about where his food came from led to “King Corn,” which Cheney co-created with Aaron Woolf and Curt Ellis. In the film, which Cheney is screening Monday night, Cheney and Ellis rent an acre of land to grow corn, which yielded approximately 10,000 pounds of corn. Cheney said the focus on corn was the result of researching the American food industry as a whole, and the realization that corn is an underpin of the American food system as a raw material.

Gautam Srikishan, senior in FAA, attended Cheney’s opening program. Srikishan said he appreciated Cheney’s explanation of having invented his own career.

“The whole idea of inventing a career is not so uncommon,” Srikishan said. “I felt like it was prior to this.”

In addition to using his documentaries as an avenue for discussing these issues, Cheney said he hopes to make his experiences a reference for people to achieve their own dreams.

“I hope to share some of the obstacles and some of the challenges and some of the lessons that I’ve learned in filmmaking and environmental advocacy, and then, more broadly, just in a DIY-sense with folks here,” he said.