At the beginning of That Sugar Film, writer-director Damon Gameau is full of joyful energy, something the goofy Australian documentarian attributes to exercise and a balanced diet that includes no refined sugar. Then, to test his conjecture, he embarks on a 60-day high-sugar diet.
The most interesting difference between Gameau’s gambit and the ur-extreme-diet documentary, Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, is that Gameau is still eating nominally healthy foods. Obviously a McDonald’s- or Swedish Fish–only diet will harm you. But what about foods marketed as healthy, often because of their lack of fat — which has been compensated for by adding sugar? If Gameau consumes 40 teaspoons of sugar a day, the teenage average in Australia, in the course of an ostensibly healthy diet, what will happen?
Nothing good. Gameau eating a water-cracker-and-sugar-cube sandwich onscreen isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about their lifestyle, because no one does that, but the results of his substituting juices for whole fruit are obvious. Maybe the strongest evidence is that his no- and high-added-sugar diets are calorically identical, but while following the latter he gains a belly to rival his pregnant girlfriend’s, and all that energy of his has evaporated.
That Sugar Film suffers from some of the usual stunt-doc laziness, most often the shots of anonymous fat people whose corpulence is implicitly tied to sugar consumption. But Gameau builds his case well, and by the end of the painfully dorky musical number, you may be swapping your smoothies for berries and plain, full-fat yogurt.
That Sugar Film
Written and directed by Damon Gameau
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Opens July 31, Village East Cinema
Available on demand
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 28, 2015