What it's about:A documentary about the detrimental effects of our daily sugar consumption as we follow documentarian, Australian and health-nut, Damon Gameau as he embarks on a carefully monitored high-sugar diet – that happens to be made up of regular, off-the-shelf products, rather than high-sugar soft drinks or sweets.What we thought:That Sugar Film covers material that has already been covered very recently in the documentary Fed Up. If you feel the need to be lectured about how all of but the very, very few of us who consume nothing but the freshest of fresh produce (with a tiniest drop of meat for variety) are doomed for death by sugar, then, good news, That Sugar Film is every bit as preachy as Fed Up but it's much, much more entertaining. It is, however, significantly less trust-worthy. Now, to be clear, though I do have something of a sweet tooth, I would have to be in the deepest state of denial to claim that too much sugar is bad for a person and that your average person's diet – which all but inevitably features at least some processed food – is far from ideal. It's hard to shake the feeling though that the shock-and-aw-crap tactics of That Sugar Film (like Fed Up before it) are rather pushing things a bit. Quite aside for the fact that a good number of actual experts are highly critical of the idea that it is the elimination of a single food-stuff, rather than a balanced and healthy diet, that results in a healthier lifestyle, the often desperate tactics that the film uses to drive its point home suggests that there is a whole lot more going on than meets the eye.On the most basic level, presenting Gameau's experience as being scientific proof for the evils of sugar is disingenuous to the extreme, as it does not take into account any of the other factors that may have contributed to, say, his weight-gain or mood swings. As for example, surely the fact that his going from a processed-sugar-free existence to one of not just eating forty teaspoons a day of the stuff, but eating far more processed food in general, might be a factor in his change of health? Might going from a non-fat to a fat diet produce similar results? Or any other radical and sudden dietary change for that matter? Further, even if we accept that sugar is unique, we still have to do with the other questionable tactics that the film uses to make its point. It, for example, brings a number of expert opinions from people who are clearly only experts in other areas. A former NASA physicist, for example, might be a genius and leader in his field but why precisely should we trust what he has to say about nutrition? And this isn't even taking into account the film's really cheap moves like claiming that sugar is to blame not just for sugar-related illnesses but for unhinged capitalism, wars and the death of Australia's Aboriginal population. I'm reasonably sure something else is to blame for that last point, at the very least.Or how about the graphic – and I mean graphic: I had to turn away for fear of violent vomiting on my part (and my person) - oral surgery of a young guy who has consumed in his life more sugary cold drinks than even a Coke-addict like your truly finds hard to fathom? And, best of all, when Gameau interviews the one expert who thinks that the "sugar problem" is overblown, he narrates over the vast majority of his answer. Granted, the expert in question is funded heavily by Coca Cola but the fact that we aren't allowed to hear anything of his actual findings in beyond suspicious.Again, everything that Gameau is saying might be 100% true but the documentary itself is highly suspect and untrustworthy – meaning that it's entirely worthless as a documentary. Which is more the pity because not only does it have important things to say along the way but it's also a very good piece of highly entertaining filmmaking.
Gameau himself might be an acquired taste as a screen presence (I actually quite liked him) but the film he put together is a gripping, laugh-out-loud funny and endlessly emotionally engaging piece of cinema. He throws everything he can at the screen to ensure that this isn't just a lecture, making use of everything from sequences of his "entering" the human body to see what the sugar is doing internally to the imaginative ways he portrays the talking-heads sequences, while throwing in beloved actors and screen-presences like Stephen Fry and Hugh Jackman, for good measure. Plus, to his great credit, he largely eschews the schmaltzy sentimentality of Fed Up at its worst. It's all almost enough to make you forget to not always trust the facts being presented. Almost. But only almost.
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