You don't have to be in straits as dire as the subjects of Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead to appreciate what the documentary is saying: the heavily processed, standard American diet is basically poison to the human body, and if you consume fruits and vegetables, you will feel better.
Although it's not a particularly novel idea, Joe Cross' 2011 documentary — which follows the Australian day-trader's effort to lose weight and heal his chronic autoimmune condition through a 60-day juice cleanse — presents it in a fresh way.
As he travels America, talking with people about their own dietary choices (and their consequences), he convinces two others — Phil, an obese trucker, and Siong, a woman who suffers from debilitating migraines — to try juicing, and the results are (unsurprisingly) miraculous.
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead isn't a film with much cinematic merit — there's an infomercial-like quality to it that feels dangerously one-sided, but it's tempered by Cross' enthusiasm and knowledge, and bolstered by interviews with doctors and experts. Plus, the before-and-after footage is genuinely shocking, even affecting. There's a solid message here, and while it may not have as much commercial appeal as Fast Food Nation, it's inspiring because it actually offers a solution rather than just documenting the obesity epidemic.
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead raises a lot of questions not just about what and how we eat, but about responsible documentary filmmaking.
Possible Discussion Topics
1. For people looking to lose weight or improve health, how practical is it to replace all meals with juice? To what extent does that keep people from having a full, normal life? Is it better to just be fat or sick?
2. Um, how incredible did Cross look at the end of his transformation when we see him swimming? Not just fit, but actually glowing.
3. Did the film place too much emphasis on personal responsibility, ignoring how socioeconomic factors impact diet and nutrition?
4. If juicing in the long-term is as powerfully transformative as the film makes it appear to be, why do people only do short juice cleanses?
5. How did you feel about juicing before the movie — and how do you feel about it now?
Stick a straw in that green juice and let's start this conversation.
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