THAT SUGAR FILM

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3.5 stars
Sugar. Evil. Everyone knows that, especially when it's turned into chocolate truffles by Kinipshildt (take a look and you'll see what we mean).
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But did you know just how evil it can be in the every day, I-eat-Weet-Bix-for-breakfast kind of way? Damon Gameau (Balibo) had an inkling but even he was surprised when he took his body on a 60 day 'health kick'. Which is to say, the normally sugar-resistant actor began consuming the average amount of sugar many Australians eat every day: 40 teaspoons. And he did it eating what is generally considered (and certainly packaged as) health food – no burgers, no ice-cream, no chocolate truffles. The results were startling.

Anyone familiar with Jacques Peretti's TV doco The Men Who Made Us Fat will know exactly what to expect from Gameau's case study (sample of one) as he dives headlong, Morgan Spurlock style, into his new diet: Super-Sugar Me, if you will. He travels Australia and the world to investigate the past, present and future of our addiction to 'sweet poison'. What he uncovers isn't pretty (including the girth of his rapidly expanding waistline).

On a sugary diet, you might expect weight gain, mood swings and see-sawing energy levels. You don't expect the severity, you don't expect the craving, you certainly don't expect people like Larry from Alabama who, aged 17, has lost all his teeth to sugary soft drinks. You don't expect Gameau's physical and mental deterioration from eating what most of us eat everyday. And that is this film's kicker. Spurlock's supercharged junk-food diet was always going to bring him a world of pain, but not a 'responsible' menu of fruit juice and muesli bars, surely?

With 80% of supermarket items now containing sugar, it's difficult to get away from the stuff. Gameau presents that a systemic push by Big Sugar is designed to keep it this way; the nation's health is not going to stand in the way of billions in profits. Besides, what's the harm in a little bit of sugar? Well, nothing, but 40 teaspoons is no small amount and therein the intractable problem facing those trying to get it out of our diet before death by fatty liver or diabetes. Its' a fascinating story.

Although this could easily look like diatribe from an enraged Frutarian enviro-warrior (he's none of these things), it is given reasonable balance in Gameau's choice of interview subjects and made more palatable by his playful visual style and charming presence. Inserts by Stephen Fry and Isabel Lucas enhance the experience. That Sugar Film is like a feature length episode of Catalyst (but less gushing), and goes a long way to explain the oversized, malnourished country we find ourselves in.

If after spending ninety odd minutes in the company of so much sweet stuff, don't feel guilty if you feel like running out for chocolate truffles and a slug of cola afterwards. Because that right there is exactly how you're meant to feel. You can thank sugar for that.

// COLIN FRASER

Previewed at The Reelroom, Sydney, on 12 February 2015

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DOCUMENTARY
Damon Gameau
Stephen Fry
Isabel Lucas
Brenton Thwaites

DIRECTOR
Damon Gameau

SCREENWRITER
Damon Gameau

COUNTRY
Australia

CLASSIFICATION
PG

RUNTIME
90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN
RELEASE DATE
March 12, 2015
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That Sugar Film (2014) on IMDb
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