U-Minn official, deans: Troubled film has issues

A piece by the U’s student news site, mndaily.com, elaborates a bit on what University Relations VP Karen Himle– who has been at the center of the flap over the U’s pulling of the environmental film Troubled Waters — and deans in the ag department apparently found troubling about the film.

She said the film’s content deviated too much from its title, Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story, which she said was supposed to concentrate on pollution of the river.

Her concern began when she saw a commercial sign for Organic Valley’s dairy farm.

“Typically, in an institutional documentary you wouldn’t see a commercial interest,” Himle said.

A few minutes later the film walked through the practices of Thousand Hills Cattle Company. Both companies, which use alternative methods of farming, were shown favorably, Himle said. There was also a scene at the Walker Art Center that discussed local food.

“Now I’m thinking, well, OK, so now where’s the river? Because we’re getting an awful lot of commercial conversation,” she said.

Al Levine, a dean in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, saw the movie with other deans in the department. Mndaily.com reports:

Levine said questions were raised about the impartiality and the scientific accuracy of the documentary. “I’m not a scientist in this particular area. I was just looking at balance, and it seemed unbalanced,” he said.

(Note: Levine told MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill on Friday that the film wasn’t necessarily inaccurate, but was unbalanced.)

An associate dean in the department, Greg Cuomo, told the student paper he thought the film “dramatized” the relationship between farming and river pollution and “vilified” agriculture without really understanding how it all works.

Scientists are obligated to look objectively at both sides of a problem, he said. But he said he thought the film “drew strong connections to things that weren’t well supported.”

Another dean, Abel Ponce de León, said its scientific approach was “lopsided,” and that the film showed a lack of “vital” information.

Read more from the article here.