That Sugar Film
Since the turn of the century, the hidden calories, additives, and preservatives that we consume in food have been at the centre of many political debates, and the impact can be seen everywhere: from GDAs (Guideline Daily Amounts) to the rise of organic produce in supermarkets. In short, consumers are greatly unaware of what is in their food. What Australian filmmaker Damon Gameau does is follow a Super Size Me-style challenge for 60 days by eating sugary foods, which have been labelled as “healthy”, confronting the contemporary notion of a balanced diet of processed foods. His objective is to convey the effects this consumption has on both a microcosmic and a societal level, hoping to convert people’s eating habits in favour of more natural ingredients.
Gameau, like Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me, carries the anti-processed food rhetoric through his own healthy lifestyle prior to the challenge and, more importantly, his humour. The audience, therefore, seldom feels preached to when he foregrounds case studies of individuals who are bound by this relentless consumption of fructose due to the political and social power of private corporate bodies. This narrative adheres to the classic David vs. Goliath parable, and Gameau puts the audience in a position that feels in equal parts empowered and defeated. The talking head revelations by a number of nutritionists, doctors, and psychologists will further enrage audiences who want to see change.
Conversely, the film does slip into gimmicky tricks in placing the interviewees’ heads on green-screen food products. Other notable examples are the theatrical talks by Stephen Fry and Hugh Jackman, and the closing anti-sugar/pro-natural foods song, which appears better suited to an educational film. The director throws in so many styles to see what works on-screen, that the overall tone is almost detrimental to the documentary’s rhetoric. Furthermore, some ideas presented by the aforementioned talking heads are based on conjecture – one goes as far as to blame sugar on Western materialism.
Nonetheless, That Sugar Film is a shocking and revelatory documentary that will anger audiences, as well as encourage some to put down the burger and go for that broccoli. This change is Gameau’s objective, and given the talking heads and celebrities involved, it seems the debate is definitely far from over. Audiences are advised to bypass the cheap gimmicks, and take from it the dangers of sugar in “healthy” processed foods.
That Sugar Film is released nationwide on 26th June 2015.
Watch the trailer for That Sugar Film here: