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#MUFFApproved: Sugar Coated

Pro-tip: don’t have any candy while watching this doc.

Dir. Michèle Hozer

Written by Siân Melton

When I saw there was a film at Hot Docs all about sugar, I knew it should be on my “must see” list. As in, I should see this movie because I have a sugar addiction. If you know me, you’re probably all, “Oh thank god she’s admitting it because I was getting worried,” and if you don’t know me, I’m the kind of person who can eat an entire bag of Hershey Kisses in one sitting. Or standing, I’m not too picky.

I wasn’t able to catch it during the festival, but I did supervise one of the Q&As, where I got to listen to director Michèle Hozer and associate producer Nathalie Bibeau talk passionately about their film. That was the push I needed to go from “I should probably see this because I might put myself in a sugar coma someday” to “these filmmakers are pretty effin’ awesome and I want to support their film and learn something too” and when I saw the film was screening at a local cinema for a week, it was immediately on my calendar.

Sugar Coated is part expose, part educational doc, and all WHY DID I BUY A SODA BEFORE WATCHING THIS FILM, SO MANY REGRETS. There’s a ton of information packed into its 91 minutes but through brilliant editing and pacing, appropriately saccharine infographics, and dynamic subjects, it never seems long or an overload of information. (That would’ve been a good spot for a “sugar overdose” pun but oh well, it’s too late now.)

The opening credits for the doc are rather sinister: a drawling rendition of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” set to stock footage of delicious, perfect sugary treats being manufactured. It could seem heavy-handed except, guys, sugar is actually evil. More specifically, the individuals/companies/corporations who have been responsible for shaping our perceptions of sugar and practically shoving it down our throats. Like, there was a very deliberate PR campaign to market sugar as “healthy” so Big Sugar (ACTUALLY, ACTUALLY) could continue selling products. AND THEN THEY WON A PR AWARD.

Big Sugar focuses on stories from a handful of amazing individuals (including Canadian doctor Yoni Freedhoff, who has a super informative YouTube channel), but who stood out for me was Cristin Kearns. She was just living her life as a dentist in Colorado and was troubled at the amount of tooth decay and health issues she was seeing in her patients and the dental community’s refusal to acknowledge it could be from sugar. This led her to discover internal documents from a long-closed sugar manufacturer that revealed the sugar industry’s darkest secret. Yup, it’s exactly like a spy movie, except with candy. Mmm. Kearns did what anyone would do: she devoted her life to further researching the sugar industry and is now a Postdoctoral Scholar working on proving that Big Sugar did, and is doing, exactly what Big Tobacco did to try to protect the tobacco industry. Except let’s be honest: none of us would actually do that and Cristin Kearns is a goddess.

Anyway, I could go on and on about all of the startling things I learned (like if you drank one soda a day, your chances of developing diabetes increases by 29%; or that CHILDREN are being diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; or that Coca-Cola sponsored a diabetes convention, no but they actually did; or that sugar is sugar is sugar, whether it’s called maple syrup or agave or coconut sugar or honey so sorry healthy bloggers, your recipes aren’t really “sugar free,” ahem) but you’re in luck because instead of listening (er, reading) me ramble you can actually watch Sugar Coated on TVO tonight.

You read that right: TVO, 9PM, May 27th, DROP EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING AND WATCH THIS DOCUMENTARY. Even if you’re not a sugar addict in need of a wake-up call like me, watch it because it’s a beautifully crafted documentary.

It’s kind of ironic that I currently work literally right next to the Redpath Sugar Refinery. I walk by it every day and kind of want to shake my fist toward it angrily now. Have I stopped eating sugar all together yet? HAHAHA, god no. But I’m aware now, find myself reading labels for the first time ever, and you know what, my usual go-too sugary treats aren’t tasting as good as they used to.

Learn more about the film here.

SIÂN is the Founder and Creative Director of The MUFF Society. You can find her here: @sharnacious.

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