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By Tom Clift
March 23, 2015
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By Tom Clift
March 23, 2015
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After three years without sugar, Damon Gameau has come off the wagon in a big, bad way. Intent on uncovering amount of processed sugar in an average Australian diet, the actor-turned-documentary filmmaker puts his own health on the line, consuming the equivalent of roughly 40 teaspoons of sugar a day. The result is a lively and eye-opening documentary on a subject that needs as much attention as it can get.

Gameau’s most obvious compatriot is Morgan Spurlock, who likewise put his own health on the line back in 2004 with the Oscar nominated Supersize Me. The comparison is an obvious one, and you’d be right in thinking that That Sugar Film seems suspiciously similar. But where Gameau has an edge is that his focus is on so-called health food. When a man dines on McDonalds for a month, of course he packs on the pounds. But when you get the same results with vitamin water and low-fat yogurt, the story is suddenly very different.

Behind the camera, Gameau does everything he can to keep his viewers entertained. Music and colourful graphics are in plentiful supply, giving the film an at times hyperactive quality that fits the subject matter to a tee. Information often comes delivered with the aid of unexpected celebrity cameos, including appearances by Hugh Jackman, Isabel Lucas and Stephen Fry.

There’s an initial temptation to dismiss the movie out of hand; after all, Gameau’s diet doesn’t exactly constitute sound scientific method. Yet despite the film’s gloss and gimmickry, Gameau could never be accused of sugar coating the facts. That Sugar Film attacks its subject from every conceivable angle, including sugar’s effect on children’s learning habits, the correlation between high sugar diets and poverty, and perhaps most unsettling of all, the lobbying efforts of billion-dollar food corporations, whose strategies seem frighteningly similar to those of big tobacco.

Still, the scariest thing about this doco is the way in which it confronts us with just how much sugar we all consume. In one of the movie's most memorable sequences, rather than eating a day’s worth of sugary food, Gameau simply eats the equivalent amount in white sugar crystals, providing viewers with a visual reference point that’s both funny and revolting.

While its message can seem obvious at times, That Sugar Film has the potential to change the way people think and behave. What higher compliment can a documentary film be given?

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