Since we were old enough to absorb television commercials we have been encouraged to “have it your way” and told that we “deserve a break today.” The potential results of eating the foods advertisers promote sets the stage for a compelling — and highly entertaining — documentary from Bethel filmmaker Lathe Poland. With a great deal of creativity, and a strong dose of common sense, Carb-Loaded helps us learn about the dangers of processed food without scaring us so much that we want to immediately devour something we shouldn’t eat.
“Misinformation on nutrition results in so much loss,” says filmmaker Poland, “in billions of dollars and millions of lives. It has become the greatest health crisis in modern memory. Even if just a few people are able to improve their health by means of the conversation this film starts, I will be overjoyed.”
Prompted by his personal situation — a medical diagnosis he reveals in a clever opening sequence — Carb-Loaded carefully avoids becoming a lecture on nutrition. To set the stage, director Poland and co-writer Eric Carlson present a few fundamental facts in a mix of visual approaches. To discuss how the pancreas functions, for example, they create an animated sequence reminiscent of an I Love Lucy episode. To refute myths about nutrition, they introduce an exaggerated caricature of a physician who is more than slightly out of touch. And, to reveal how eating without thinking can be dangerous, they use a “white board” visual technique that helps us absorb the content in just a few minutes.
But Carb-Loaded is more than a creative visual display; Poland has something important to say. Perhaps because the reason for making the film is so personal, he uses his unique perspective to advance the logic behind his point of view. Without blaming us for the habits we develop, he articulates a case against a food industry that he believes is committed to make people addicted to foods laden with unhealthy sugars and starches. Poland helps us see that, to overcome the dangers of choosing these foods, we need to make healthy choices every day.
“I spent a year researching the topic,” he says, “trying to find experts that were logical and scientific in their approach to the issues. However radical the concepts, it was important that I find reasonable, balanced voices.” Just as interesting as his research is how Poland secured the money to fund the production: he put a “trailer” on the crowd-funding website KickStarter to seek contributions. And he exceeded his goal. “Like all filmmakers,” he says, “I hope to find the widest audience possible for the film.”
As substantive as the film’s message, Poland’s creativity prevents the film from becoming a lecture. He cleverly injects a series of sequences — such as The Body: The Inside Story — to challenge the credibility of traditional nutritional notions — including the food pyramid — we have been told to follow for years. And, to support his point of view, he includes commentary from 28 experts in the field, as well as observations from regular people he meets on the street. This mixture of approaches — and the film’s fast pace — helps the director keep the material fresh, emphasize key points, and make this nutritional lesson most entertaining.
“My Netflix queue is filled with documentaries that I only watched for 15 minutes because I got bored and moved on,” he says. “I tried to keep the film visually interesting. Humor was an important consideration to make a film I would enjoy watching all the way through.”
Poland and Carlson clearly succeed. The film’s light tone — from how it’s shot to its music score — helps us easily absorb the information as we think about what it all means. While we may not want to hear that consuming processed food can lead to diabetes, or that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US, these are important facts to remember. And, just like when our mothers encouraged us to eat our vegetables, Carb-Loaded helps us rediscover how choosing natural foods can lead to healthier lives. And that’s a good outcome from a most entertaining and nutritional film.
(For tickets to the Carb-Loaded premiere at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Saturday, Sept. 27, go to ridgefieldplayhouse.org or call 203-438-5795. For more information on Lathe Poland’s work, including other ways to see the movie, go to carbloaded.com.)
4 Apples (is that do-able just for this week? otherwise popcorn buckets)