That Sugar Film
Australian actor Damon Gameau’s documentary opens with the sweetest montage I’ve ever seen. Colourful lollies, bright bottles of soft-drink, the rainbow displays that line our supermarket shelves. This movie is all about sugar, and with Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ blaring through the speakers the message is clear from the start. We’re addicted.
This opening sequence sets the tone for Gameau’s accessible approach to the science behind what sugar is doing to our health. In the vein of Morgan Spurlock’s habit-changing stunt-turned-doco Supersize Me, Gameau’s tactic is a personal one. He puts himself through a targeted experiment in order to observe the effects of a high sugar diet on his own body. After three years sugar-free, Gameau documents two months eating 40 teaspoons of sugar a day (the Australian average for 19-30 year olds, according to the ABS), with his pregnant partner behind the camera and a team of medical experts closely monitoring the impact on his health and state of mind. What makes this experiment revelatory is that Gameau only looks at sugars in foods commonly perceived as ‘healthy’.
That Sugar Film shines a light on the vast quantities of sugar that have infiltrated our food supply, demonstrating how much of a marketing construct the concept of ‘wholesome’, low-fat processed food is. As soon as Gameau’s first breakfast of muesli with yoghurt and a glass of apple juice blows half of his day’s sugar allowance, it’s clear that the challenge might expose just how badly ‘healthy’ packaging is deceiving consumers. The effect of the experiment on Gameau’s mood, as well as his weight and liver condition is striking, suggesting that sugar, rather than fat, may be the main culprit behind rising levels of obesity and related ills.
Gameau and his team present their scientific findings in a humourous, easily digestible way, with guest appearances from Stephen Fry and Hugh Jackman, among others. Special effects work brilliantly to soften the talking heads interview footage with industry professionals, ensuring the documentary will entertain high school audiences, as well as inform. Yet there’s a serious message beneath That Sugar Film’s bright packaging – definitely one worthy of our attention.
Stella Charls is marketing and events coordinator for Readings.