That Sugar Film

I was lucky enough in the past week to host five screening + Q&As for a new Aussie film that’s about to take the nation (and probably western world) by storm.
It’s called That Sugar Film and is directed by Damon Gameau, an Australian actor and filmmaker, who actually won Tropfest Short Film Festival back in 2011 with Animal Beatbox, to much online debate.

His new film is kind of like a Supersize Me, but with sugar. But instead of chowing down on Maccas everyday, Damon eats 40 teaspoons worth of sugar everyday for 60 days – and only through foods advertised as ‘healthy’. So no chocolate, ice-cream or lollies. Just cereals, low-fat yoghurts, pre-packaged stir fry sauces and the like.

The equivalent of how many teaspoons of sugar Damon ate every day

The equivalent of how many teaspoons of sugar Damon ate every day

It’s astonishing to a) see how easy it is to eat 40 teaspoons each day and b) see just how sick he becomes.

What also surprised me, is just how palatable (no pun intended) this film is. A lot of people don’t enjoy documentaries, because the stereotype is they can be dry and intensely factual. But while That Sugar Film might lose a bit of steam about three quarters in, it’s hugely entertaining and tremendous fun, considering we’re watching a guy torture his body with sugar for two months. In the screenings I was at, small children sat as mesmerised as their parents while watching Damon happily poke fun at himself and get people laughing – and learning – at the same time.

It’s definitely a flick that stays with you. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to look at cereal the same way.  And in fact, just today, in an effort to cut out some of the hidden sugars in my diet, I made some cottage cheese muffins so I wouldn’t reach for a chocolate pick-me-up. And after the shock-horror of seeing how much junk goes into wraps, I also whipped up a few homemade versions of them too.

Cottage cheese muffins from 101 Cookbooks

Cottage cheese muffins from 101 Cookbooks

That Sugar Film just got a limited run on screens here in Australia and it’s heading to cinemas around the world. Definitely worth seeing this doco, which packs a lot of food for thought. Just remember to skip the candy bar on your way – you’ve been warned!

 

 

Women in Film

It’s International Women’s Day on March 8 and as someone who lives and breathes film, it makes me wonder what that actually means for the ladies in the industry.
This past year has been a fascinating one in the realm of the gender debate in film.
Meryl
Most recently, we had Patricia Arquette delivering a passionate speech about wage equality during her Oscars acceptance speech, even if the message was soured backstage.
Anyone who still believed that action movies with women don’t sell, was well and truly silenced with the Jennifer Lawrence driven sequel Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 becoming the top grossing film in the US and in Australia.

Similarly, Scarlett Johansson-starrer Lucy gobbled up the box office in the US on its opening weekend with US$44 million, while action hero Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules only took $29 million the same weekend.

LucyScarlettJohanssonLSUniversal

AND the screenplay for box office smash Guardians of the Galaxy was actually written by a woman – Nicole Perlman – before director James Gunn took over the reins.

So there’s a lot to be pleased about as a woman in film. But it’s not all arrow-slinging heroines out there.

As revealed by the Sony hack late in 2014, J-Law may be reeling in the big bucks for studios with The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook and the X-Men flicks, but when it came to coughing up the cash for her role in American Hustle, she and Amy Adams were paid less than their male counterparts.

I get why the writer/director David O Russell is earning more and in some ways I maybe understand why Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale might be, seeing as Lawrence’s character is more of a supporting role than theirs. But 1) how does that explain the gap with Amy Adams, who is definitely a lead role and 2) why would Jeremy Renner be earning more? Fanbase size aside, which Lawrence is probably leading in anyway, I think how valuable they are can be judged in another way: Renner’s role in American Hustle could have been played by another actor and it wouldn’t have changed the film much, but Lawrence owned that part. I don’t think anyone could have played it as well. It gave American Hustle a much-needed boost of energy and humour.

jennifer-lawrence-american-hustle-deleted-scene

Additionally, there was also the obvious and worrying lack of female nominees at the Oscars this year, particularly for Selma director Ava DuVernay and Gone Girl screenwriter Gillian Flynn. Some said this was because of the lack of representation in the Academy, however I believe the problem is far deeper.

It is a problem when there is only one woman people believe is in the running for best director at the Oscars. Many should be vying for a place there and for stories about women. Why is it that every single film nominated for the Best Picture was a story revolving around a man. Women apparently make up around half of the population, so why is it that we apparently aren’t watching their stories on screen? Where are all the female directors and screenwriters?

And then you have something like Wild. A personal, passionate memoir written by Cheryl Strayed, it’s produced by Reese Witherspoon, who also stars, and yet it’s adapted for the screen by men. I’m not saying that screenwriter Nick Hornby isn’t fantastic – An Education is a wonderful movie – and I’m not saying Jean-Marc Vallee who directed Dallas Buyers Club isn’t talented either. I’m just saying, if you have such a personal tale that focuses on that wonderfully complex mother-daughter relationship, why wouldn’t a female screenwriter, or a female director be the right choice to put it on screen?

Cheryl Strayed Reece Witherspoon

Author Cheryl Strayed and actress/producer Reese Witherspoon

 

Maybe there’s just not enough women out there who want a career in film. Apparently a recent report by Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University showed that of the 250 top grossing films, only 7 per cent of the directors were women. It was a two per cent drop over the last 17 years.

It’s easy to get disheartened by such figures. But then you watch a movie such as exceptionally frightening and fabulous The Babadook by Australian director Jennifer Kent, or revisit some of the work of Lynn Shelton, Jane Campion or Tina Fey. Or maybe you catch the documentary Citizenfour by Laura Poitras or a personal fave, Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley. And you realise there are voices out there. Loud voices. They’re being heard, but just not yet in the volumes we need.