Do We Really Need Another Food Documentary?

The Lempert Report
August 16, 2018

The answer is probably ‘Yes’, as Millennials and Gen Z continue to be media and food obsessed.

Quartz has a great column called “the art of the alarmist food documentary” that looks at the impact of these food documentaries – some of which are great and accurate and others? Well. Look at the The Magic Pill, a new documentary on Netflix, in which Pete Evans, one of its stars, has been called out for quackery in his home country of Australia—is that it’s part of a worrisome trend in alarmist food documentaries. 

Quartz goes on to write that while sharing a similar spiritual DNA, these films call out real issues like our industrialized, highly subsidized system of agriculture, and the deep profit motive in the pharmaceutical industry—and then offer seemingly simple solutions, that are in reality, highly impractical for the average diner.

With the exception of Katie Couric’s narration of Fed Up, nearly every diet and food policy documentary out there features a white American or Australian man as your host. Once on screen, said white-Anglophone embarks on a journey through a house of nutritional horrors, reliably including the cereal aisle, industrial meat production, a pantheon of experts, and perhaps the most horrific of them all, the host’s own tale of personal transformation.

It’s important to reduce the long history of humans eating food into a simple set of culinary guidelines, the more radically restrictive, the better. Eat mostly fat. Don’t eat any sugar ever. Go vegan. Drink only green juice to reclaim your health. 

What the Health, which advocates for a vegan diet was produced by Joaquin Phoenix, and for some unfathomable reason features Steve-O—yes from Jackass—as a voice of reason. Forthcoming vegan documentary Eating You Alive features James Cameron, Samuel L. Jackson and Penn Jillette. That Sugar Film, which is actually quite fun and reasonable, has cameos from Hugh Jackman and Stephen Fry, as well as a few Australian celebrities like Isabel Lucas.

Here’s the topline. Food documentaries should be steeped in science and facts – but the reality is that they are not sexy if they do that – but we need to keep getting the message out there and educating people. A conundrum if there ever was one.