Share via Email Unaffected: In the last five minutes of the movie several cows are subjected to similar processing: Then their limbs are hacked off one by one, and they are skinned. Finally their entrails are disgorged and sent blobbing down a chute, like oversized jellyfish.
It's not a pleasant scene, and it is all the more disconcerting because in the middle of all the gore and spouting blood, a beautiful woman is standing. Her pale face is splattered red and her eyes are dilated with an expression of deep shock.
The woman is the Colombian actress Catalina Sandino Moreno, and her traumatised appearance is not merely testament to her acting. The passage was shot as if live, capturing her first experience of the inside of a slaughterhouse.
I'd been warned there would be lots of blood, but it was still very shocking. One minute we were driving through the countryside watching cows eating grass and having fun. Then suddenly we were inside and there is the cow hanging upside down, its eyes still blinking. Then here's another one, and another one - it's like a machine, and the workers were like robots, not talking to each other, just killing, killing, killing.
She burst into view in - grabbing an Oscar nomination for best actress as she did so - in her first movie, Maria Full of Grace, in which she played a Colombian drug mule to the United States. In a memorable scene - similarly shot without any prior preparation - she swallows several packages of white powder wrapped in condoms, her neck distending as the boluses go down.
Like Maria, Fast Food Nation focuses on the irresistible lure of the great power to the north for Hispanic immigrants who are seeking to build a new life, and who are prepared to take terrible risks to do so.
A docu-drama based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Eric Schlosser, who co-wrote the script with Linklater, it follows the hopefuls as they make their perilous border crossing only to be rewarded with dangerous and low-paid work in the meat processing plants of Colorado.
Fast Food Nation goes one stage further than Maria in that it also explores the impact of the rush for fast-food profits on the existing US population: It has been three years since Maria Full of Grace, and Sandino Moreno had starred in just two other films in the interim, and one of those was a short-role in a portmanteau movie.
She accounts for her low work-rate by saying she was waiting for another script with a message. The huge success of Maria had taken everybody - including its debutant director, Joshua Marston, and equally green lead actress - utterly by surprise. With the benefits of such success, she says, came a growing sense of responsibility to stick with what she calls "socially powerful" cinema.
When we showed the movie in New York a lot of people who came were Colombians wanting to remember back home - it was so great to be in the theatre surrounded by people from Bogota, Cali, Medellin, Pereira. After that, I really wanted to concentrate on a new project that was as powerful. When Marston came knocking at her door, she was training to be an advertising executive; her biggest ambition in life was to "be put on a campaign selling spoons".
She went along with the movie, she said, simply because she thought it would be a "fun ride", never expecting it to go beyond a limited release on pay TV. That she has enjoyed such a short-cut to stardom is in itself a reflection of the wider boom in interest in Latin-American film. Though Latin-America has been making movies for as long as Hollywood, it is only recently that the output has been recognised among the mass cinema-going audience in the US.
Its new status is partly, perhaps, because of the rising demographic importance of America's Hispanic population, and partly because of the wealth of talent emerging from the new generation of Hispanic film-makers. Fernando Meirelles opened the floodgates with his Oscar nomination for best director with City of God, and others have rushed in behind him. By the time Sandino Moreno took her seat at the Oscars the following year, she was joined at other tables by the three rising stars of Mexican cinema: Her biography reads like a version - albeit a comfortable, middle-class one - of El Norte, the celebrated movie about the long journey of Latino immigrants to the US.
Certainly, her relocation to New York has been legal and relatively pain-free. Her upbringing in a family of doctors and her education in a British school means she is at home in her present neighbourhood, Manhattan's upper east side, as she is back home in Bogota. There was no swallowing of boluses when she flew into JFK. But the economic imperative for a young actor to be in America is little different, I suggest to her, than that of Sylvia, the illegal immigrant she plays in Fast Food Nation.
Although since Maria she has become one of the foremost Latin-American actors of her generation, almost all the movies she has appeared in have been directed by North American film-makers, including the soon-to-be-released The Hottest State, a romance directed by Ethan Hawke. The only exceptions have been a five-minute segment of the portmanteau movie Paris, Je T'Aime, directed by the Brazilian Walter Salles, and the forthcoming period piece Heart of the Earth by the Spanish director Antonio Cuadri.
In response she insists that she still harbours ambitions to make films in Spanish and with top Latin-American directors. No, not at all. There are so many intelligent film-makers working in Latin America, in Colombia. The two months spent on location in the port of Cartagena gave her the rare chance to exhibit her home to the wider world. I felt so proud while I was there, showing off my beautiful home to my colleagues.
With Fast Food Nation, Heart of the Earth, the Hottest State and Love in the Time of Cholera all to be released in quick succession, the one-time advertising trainee from Bogota is going to be much in view this year.
Her grandmother has a busy few months ahead.