Damon Gameau was a successful actor branching out into directing. With an award winning short-film under his belt looking for a topic for his first feature film as a director when he discovered the over-sugaring of the population and THAT SUGAR FILM was on its way. Rather than take a earnest, pedantic approach, he decided to use the sugar industry’s own tactic against it: bright neon colors, a playful attitude, and even a catchy theme song written and performed by Gameau himself. The result is the highest grossing documentary ever in Gameau’s native Australia.
When I spoke to the filmmaker by phone on July 29, 2015, he told me about his decision to make his film entertaining as well as informative. Cheery yet dead serious about the topic of THAT SUGAR FILM, he went on to discuss if he had second thoughts in the midst of his 60-day experiment on himself eating sugar-laden healthy foods, the toughest moments filming (it involves teeth), his thoughts on corporate responsibility for the world’s declining health, and what his experiment taught science.
THAT SUGAR FILM is his personal odyssey through the lies, obfuscations, and physiological changes of following a putatively healthy diet saturated with hidden sugar. For 60 days, he maintained the same calorie-count, the same exercise regime, but consumed 40 teaspoons of sugar daily as he ate only foods labeled as healthy and all-natural, but with added sugar. No junk food, no ice cream or candy, yet in the process, he went from being in excellent health and condition to a rapid weight gain, mood swings, mental dullness, and he both acquired a fatty liver and became pre-diabetic. And that was in the first month. What was more remarkable, though, was how quickly his body, and brain, bounced back once he stopped the excess sugars. Using experts, as well as celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Hugh Jackman, to educate us about the dangers of too much sugar in our diet, Gameau presents us with a film as puckish as he is, and just as determined to change the way we see sugar.