Reviewed by GREG KING


Director: Damon Gameau.

Actor Damon Gameau (The Tracker, Save Your Legs, etc) turns filmmaker for this provocative documentary that looks at the unhealthy side effects of too much sugar in our daily diet. About to become a father for the first time, Gameau began to worry about the effects of sugar on his pregnant partner, actress Zoe Tuckwell-Smith, and his unborn baby. He spoke to a number of health professionals and nutritionists about sugar in the diet and its effects, and was amazed at what he learned.

On learning that the average person consumes the equivalent of 40 teaspoons of sugar a day, most of it hidden, Gameau decided to embark on an experiment to measure and record the impact of a sugar diet over the course of two months. But for his sugar heavy diet, Gameau avoided the usual suspects such as soft drinks, etc, and went for the healthy foods like muesli bars, yoghurt, etc, that contained hidden sugar. Regular checkups with doctors showed a weight gain and some damage to his organs. But Gameau also shows that these effects can be reversed.

That Sugar Film is clearly in the same mold as Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, in which the provocative documentary filmmaker lived on a diet of fast food for a couple of months to explore the impact of junk food on our health and body. It certainly put his health at risk. Like Spurlock before him Gameau decides to become the guinea pig in his own experiment and his body becomes the laboratory.

Stephen Fry and an uncredited Hugh Jackman drop by to provide a brief history of sugar and its importance throughout the centuries as both a food stuff and commodity. We also learn that doctors first suspected a link between too much sugar in the diet and serious health problems such as strokes as early as the 1950s.

There is one sequence involving a teenage boy in North Carolina whose teeth have rotted as a result of drinking an average of nearly two litres of soft drink every day of his life. A dentist operates to remove the rotted teeth and replace them with dentures. But as hardened as I have become to watching blood and gore on the screen and sitting through countless violent deaths, dismemberments and eviscerations without so much as batting an eyelid, I winced and had to look away from these scenes.

That Sugar Film offers plenty of food for thought and is something of a wake-up call. There is a sense that Gameau is preaching to the converted, although it is obvious that he hopes his film will make a difference and give many in the audience an opportunity to reexamine many of their lifestyle choices. If his film causes a change in habits for some people then he has probably been successful.

There are a number of talking heads interviews here with experts, scientists and nutritionists, but Gameau presents them in an interesting way – instead of the usual bland presentation he has superimposed these experts against a backdrop of food packaging such as cereal boxes, which makes it more visually interesting.

Sure, That Sugar Film is didactic. It also informative and challenging. But Gameau takes care to ensure that it is also entertaining with some visual flourishes and lots of humour. There is even a colourful rap song. The message may be unpalatable, but in this particular case a spoonful of sugar does help the message go down in a most enjoyable way.



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