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This article was published 30/5/2015 (755 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Award-winning filmmaker Michele Hozer needed healthy viewers to get the message about sugar's toxicity.
As part of her strategy, the typical gratuitous, below-the-neck shot of an overweight person's protruding belly doesn't appear anywhere in the Torontonian's latest documentary, Sugar Coated.
"Because you don't want the audience to say, 'Oh, that doesn't involve me. I'm not affected by that,'" the Emmy-nominated, Gemini-winning Hozer says.
Her film makes its Winnipeg première today at Cinemetheque during the Gimme Some Truth Documentary Festival.
"You can be skinny and still get sick if you consume too much juice and too much sugar. It's not about obesity," she says.
In Sugar Coated, Hozer showcases the sugar industry's manipulation of the public and the way it has successfully buried the science that says sugar is responsible for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
She compares the sugar industry to the tobacco industry as Cristin Kearns, a dentist and researcher featured in the film, found and analyzed "secret" historical sugar documents. These documents unveil a master plan to counter the science of the day with clever marketing.
But perhaps most startling for Hozer was the realization scientists knew for decades that sugar was toxic and governments even considered using tobacco-style warnings about sugar.
"My God, what happened? Why did this debate die? We've been in the exact same position 30 years ago, and we could've made changes, and we didn't," Hozer says.
In making the film, she travelled to Japan, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco where she questioned scientists and anti-sugar crusaders, including pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustigs, author and New York Times journalist Gary Taubes and Ottawa physician and food-industry critic Dr. Yoni Freedhoff.
To bring the point home, Hozer included patients whose health was torn apart by sugar. One that stands out is a fit, trim professional athlete whose stint on a diet low in fat but high in processed foods left him with "pre" Type 2 diabetes.
Another patient had a fatty liver as a young teen. Cutting juice and other forms of sugar out of her diet reversed her health problems
Hozer, 52, grew up in Montreal and moved to Toronto 19 years ago, initially for a three-week contract. She ended up making the city her home and now lives there with her husband and kids.
She worked as a film editor for 25 years before delving into documentary-making. (She was a collaborator on Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, which was shortlisted for an Oscar.)
Hozer says she got the idea to make Sugar Coated about three years ago at a lecture about Alzheimer's disease when researchers at the conference drew a link between sugar use and the cause the neurological ailment.
But perhaps her fascination with sugar began in infancy. Born in Brussels, Belgium, near a chocolate factory, the aroma of chocolate wafted through the streets around her childhood home.
"I wonder if this sort of seeped into me," she says, noting that she has drastically cut her intake of juices and packaged foods since making Sugar Coated.
She hopes her film will make an impact on the public.
"Will the documentary create change? That's a lot to ask from a 90-minute film," she says. "If we're at a point of a transformation in the food industry... I hope my film helps in fuelling that debate or in fuelling that transformation.
"And let's hope the characters in my film play their parts in helping that transformation."