Friday, April 20, 2012

Food on Friday: Feature Films


In the last few weeks, I have been on kind of a food documentary kick. I thought it might be helpful for me to give some brief analyses of these types of movies to those of you who are interested. I will go chronological order of the documentaries that I have watched:

  1. Food, Inc. - This is a popular and controversial documentary that focuses on American's major food/meat packaging companies. The film interviews expert nutritionists and local farmers about the 'questionable' ingredients that we put in our bodies via processed foods/meats. Food, Inc. looks at the meat industry's vast production plants and the potentially harmful practices that ensue. The film interviews one woman whose son died from e.Coli poisioning in a hamburger, and an immigrant family who can't afford to eat healthfully. The film presents how the American food industry lowers prices of their processed foods, while at the same time driving up the prices of fruits and vegetables
    • Positives: This film reveals some very disturbing facts about where our meats come from, and how they are processed. The multiple interviews with major industries and local farmers provides a good contrast of each side's argument for their 'way of eating'. Lastly, the film advocates a message of supporting local farmers who treat their animals with care without adding hormones to them.
    • Negatives: The film is very emotionally-charged (thank you Chance Sumner for pointing this out). The interviews with different families and experts appeal to the sympathies of film-watchers. Take caution: some of the images are disturbing and you may be skipping your next BBQ. Lastly, in a word: agenda. The filmmakers, like the major food industries, have their own agenda, so if you watch the film be sure to do so with discernment.
  2. Forks Over Knives - This film is another popular documentary that advocates for a plant-based diet, based on the scientific research of two expert doctors. Forks presents the problems with America's diet and links it to the downward spiraling health of this country. The research and actual footage is very compelling and the case for a plant-based diet (or even a significant increase in the amount of meat we ingest) is very convincing.
    • Positives: Like I said the film follows two doctors in particular who came out with highly controversial evidence (in their day) that advocated a plant-based diet to reverse medical problems like heart disease and diabetes. It's hard to argue with the experts. The statistics presented on America's percentage of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, etc. is abundant. I really liked this film because, while the film is advocating for something, they are doing so with solid, factual evidence. The film also follows a number of people who go on the plant-based diet and see significant results! Major plus for that!
    • Negatives: I wish that this film was a little more exciting.. or a little bit faster paced. While I did very much enjoy this film, I was a little dissappointed that the two people that went on the plant-based diet were both from the same economic class. I would like to see diversity in the demographic that switches to plant-based diets so we can ask questions like : is it afforable? is it possible?
  3. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead - This film has true documentary roots. Fat follows one native Australian man, who comes to America to "get healthy". At the beginning of the film we see Joe living a life of busyness, loaded with medications, and grossly unhealthy eating. Joe comes to America in order to take on a month-long juice fast - consuming ONLY fruits and vegetables through juicing. The film follows him on his solo journey as he interviews common Americans all across the nation. At the end of the film we see the results of his juice fast and they are shocking! (Highly recommend).
    • Positive: This documentary is honest and entertaining. Joe is an average guy who takes it upon himself to get healthy via nutrition. I loved the uncut style of the film and the "no agenda" attitude that Joe has throughout his experience. He isn't trying to necessarily convince anyone of his way of thinking (juice fasting), he simply asks people if they would try the fast and then gives them his reasoning based on his recent experiences. In addition, near the end of the film Joe helps one very overweight truck driver take on the challenge of losing weight to become more active, which is a really cool thing to see.
    • Negative: Joe can be a bit blunt at times, but it all depends on how you take it. The film ends on kind of a cliff-hanger, but other than that, this was one of my favorites.
  4. Chow Down - This film uses two of the same doctors as in Forks Over Knives to portray the possibility of reversing certain medical problems using nutrition. This film has more of a real life appeal. It follows the lives of three individuals as they take on the challenge to switch from an unhealthy, processed food-filled, sedentary lifestyle to a healthier, nutritionally rich lifestyle. It tracks their progress throughout the film.
    • Positives: The film does a good job of showing the realistic sides of a plant-based diet. While this diet is proven to help reverse heart disease, high cholestrol, and diabetes, it is also not easy to maintain long-term for some of the folks who tried it. I appreciated the honesty in showing both the negative and positive aspects of plant-based diet. I also appreciated the balance of real life interviews and expert interviews.
    • Negatives: There were a few interviews with the family members of the "guinea pigs" who went on the plant-based diet, that were just plain awkward. The film was too long - almost 1 hr. 45 minutes - and could have been half of that.
I hope that this gives you some ideas about what to watch the next time you order your NetFlix. Both from an experiencial and statistical stand point, each of these documentaries have something to offer! Happy viewing and happy Friday!

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