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Interview: Laurie David and Stephanie Soechtig talk Fed Up

Having already cooked up a bit of controversy and calculated attention with a not-so–subtle poster, Fed Up is looking to impact audiences in the theatres and change the way they operate in the supermarket and the kitchen.

The movie poster uses the title’s initials to imply an apt reaction to the U.S. Congress designating pizza as a vegetable. The comprehensive documentary, which attacks a systemic problem that has negatively affected how Americans have eaten for decades, is less aggressive, welcoming as many as possible to this healthy foodie movement.

“One of the goals was we really wanted kids to be able to watch this movie, we wanted parents, we wanted grandparents to watch,” said executive producer Laurie David. “Basically if you eat, we want you to see this movie.”

David, who worked on An Inconvenient Truth, here joins director Stephanie Soechtig and fellow EPs Heather Reisman and Katie Couric, the latter of who also serves as narrator and interviewer. About three and half years ago, Couric called Soechtig and explained that in covering decades of diet trends and food fads, obesity and food-related health problems had still sky-rocketed.

The pair decided to endeavor for a comprehensive, exhaustive documentary that would appeal to the widest audience possible. “We needed to do for the food movement what An Inconvenient Truth did for climate change,” said Soechtig, who joined David and Reisman in Toronto ahead of Fed Up’s premiere at Hot Docs.

The film chronicles the plight of a quartet of teenagers who are struggling with weight loss. While their intimate and sometimes heartbreaking story unfolds, Soechtig looks at a world of politics that has been influenced by big corporations and a backwards system that has stacked the deck against so many. The opening argument states that it’s not simply ‘diet and exercise’ that make people healthy; while that is key, there is a process in place in America that restricts the ability of society, especially children, from getting healthy as sugar and process foods abound.

“It was important to me that we make a film which appeals to the larger audience, and doesn’t cater to people who just love to watch documentaries,” said Soechtig. “It’s striking a balance between the narrative, the scandal, and the history; its’ like a soup and these are the three ingredients.”

The argument is detailed, noting how corporations run school cafeterias, ads target children, and calories have become the false scapegoat while sugar is the dangerous culprit. Notable figures such as Michael Pollen and Bill Clinton lend their thoughts as well. As Reisman points out though, the narrative of the ambitious children shines through.

“What has made this so impactful is that there really is a rhythmic narrative throughout,” she explained. [Soechtig] tells a story through the eyes of the children, the parents, the industry, and the politicians, and she weaves those all together. To me, that is compelling.”

Thus, Fed Up illuminates, aggravates, and saddens. There is plenty covered in the 90 minutes, and while it may leave you feeling a bit exhausted, it can’t help but move you.

“The common response from everyone we’ve talked to who have seen the film is that they’ve run home and open their cupboards,” said David. “They start looking at the labels, and I think that’s a fantastic response. The solution is in the kitchen.”

Scene Creek

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