That Sugar Film (2015)

June 22nd, 2015
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director.: Damon Gameau

Documentary with Damon Gameau, Stephen Fry, Hugh Jackman, Isabel Lucas

Australia 2014, 97 min.

In 2004 Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me took care of Mac Donald’s fast food products. Now ten year’s later, Australian actor Damon Gameau (Balibo) tackles muesli bars, fruit smoothies and other “natural” foods which contain sugar to an unbelievable level.

Gameau, a sort of friendlier and more serious version of Russell Brand, had been “sugar free” for years. With his girlfriend in the latter stages of her pregnancy, Gameau set out to prove what the average intake of sugar in Australia – 40 teaspoons of sugar or 160 gram of it – does to your physical and mental health. But instead of chocolate, ice cream or soft drinks he stuck to cereals, low fat yoghurts, fruit smoothies and musli bars: food you might find in your own fridge or larder, thinking it healthy. Consulting an array of physicians and nutritionists, the sugar intake had an dramatic impact on the actors life: during the 60 days of his “sugar trial”, he gained around half a kilo a day, even though he stuck to the 2300 daily calories he was used too before the experiment. Furthermore, he developed the first signs of fatty liver disease, and was affected by violent mood swings; quite like symptoms bi-polar sufferers endure.

Gameau travelled to a remote Aboriginal settlement in Australia, where government support had helped to wean the community off their Coca-Cola addiction – only to find out that the grant had been cancelled, and the community had fallen back on their bad habits. Flying to the United States, the home of the soft-drink giants Coca Cola and Pepsi, he found a teenager in the Appalachian mountains, whose teeth had been completely destroyed by “Mount Dew”, a soft drink with powerful caffeine and sugar levels. Gameau’s use of graphics is original, it serves the audience well when we see a fully stocked supermarket, and then reduce it to twenty per cent: the amount of articles that do not contain sugar. Like the Tobacco industry before it, the 80 billion Dollar sugar industry employs “scientists” who write papers, muddying the waters, by coming to the conclusion that sugar intake is not at all responsible for major health problems.

But it’s not all pedagogic effort: Gameau introduces funny elements, like minimalising himself and helping his mini version into his brain, to research the brain reaction to a hefty sugar intake. Stephen Fry and High Jackman also try to keep up a certain entertainment level, and the wonderful CGI show at the end that combining sex and lust for sugary products, sends the audience in a more light hearted way home – hopefully still in the mood to ditch those ‘health food’ items from their larders. THAT SUGAR FILM is just the right mixture of enlightenment, polemics and original aesthetics that might make us change our shopping and eating habits – a little. AS

THAT SUGAR FILM is on general release from 26 JUNE 2015

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