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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

‘Fed Up’ will feed your appetite for change

Of all the interesting movies opening this weekend, it's likely the last one you'd want to see is a documentary about America's ongoing struggle with individual weight gain. That, however, is precisely why I chose to review “Fed Up” for Spokane Public Radio. It, and the Magic Lantern, need the support.

If you choose not to go, and I wouldn't blame you, you might want to check it out in another format. I would suggest you do so — along with seeing something else at the Lantern (the indelibly creepy “Under the Skin” maybe?).

Anyway, here's my review: 

Breakfast-cereal lovers of the world, take note: The price of your favorite frosted flakes could rise by some 30 percent over the next decade and a half. The reason? Shifting weather patterns are already wreaking havoc with the climate, and if things get much worse – as they likely will – the result might well be double the price for such commodities as corn and rice.

That, at least, is what a study released by the social-action group Oxfam International alleges. And the possibility of this occurring is certainly bad news, especially for the world’s poor, who depend more than the rest of us on such cheap foodstuffs. It turns out, though, there’s good news as well: All of us would benefit greatly by eating less processed food, including sugar-laced breakfast cereals.

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Millions of Americans are affected by obesity, some 93 million according to the non-profit Obesity Action Coalition. This is one of the statistics cited by filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig in her documentary “Fed Up.” While following a number of children who are battling severe weight issues, Soechtig investigates a number of attendant concerns.

One involves attitude: It’s all too easy to point a finger at overweight children and label them as merely lazy, as pretty much all media sources – but especially the more conservative ones – do on a regular basis. The problem, which should come as no surprise, is more complicated. Genetics and family finances both play a role, as do eating habits. But, as Soechtig takes pains to point out, in the arguments over America’s obesity problem – similar to the ongoing debates about climate change – facts tend to be less important than long-held opinion.

This is especially true when, “Fed Up” charges, those opinions are reinforced by a food industry that, like the tobacco industry before it, seems more concerned with protecting its bottom line than in promoting health. Lobbying by the Nestles, the Coca-Colas and the McDonalds of the world are why, Soechtig claims, senate committee investigations have been waylaid, why government reports have been buried, why government itself has been characterized as a “nanny state” and why so many Americans – despite libraries full of self-help books and hopeful remedies such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program – continue to struggle with their weight.

Directed by Soechtig, narrated by former network news anchor Katie Couric and produced by Laurie David of “An Inconvenient Truth” fame, “Fed Up” – which opens today at the Magic Lantern Theater – is bound to stir up controversy. Some of its claims have been denied and even derided by the Grocery Manufacturers Association in a sponsored website called “Fed Up Facts.”

All of which makes it important for each of us to do our own fact-checking. “Fed Up,” like many such activist documentaries, might not offer the whole truth. But it offers enough fuel to spark a fire of discussion.

A discussion, by the way, that would probably go better with a plate of fresh fruit than a bowl of Captain Crunch.

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