Killer at Large
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Obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed over the last twenty years, with no end in sight provoking former Surgeon General, Richard Carmona to state that "obesity is a terror within. It is destroying our society from within and unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist event that you can point out..."
As this epidemic of obesity reaches out into even the most remote corners of the globe, only one thing seems clear, the issue is more complex than you could ever imagine.
Seeking to trace the problem to it's root, we find ourselves in the African Savannah 4 million years ago where we discover how our hunter gatherer ancestry, when mixed in with our modern environment of convenience, stress and abundance has led us to become the most obese generation in the history of the world. Perhaps an even more sobering fact is that we're the first modern society to raise a generation of children with a projected life expectancy that is shorter than that of their parents.
One of the film's most compelling characters is found in Brooke Bates, who after struggling with her weight for all her young life, resorted to liposuction and a tummy tuck at age 12 (all caught on camera). Where the media blitz around the surgery focused on her age and questioning her parents judgment, our documentary camera's dug deeper between the lines to address the confluence of emotional and environmental factors which lead Brooke and so many other young people down a contentious path of food addiction and self loathing.
Beyond the shocking medical statistics and newspaper headlines that one would expect, Killer at Large also examines the ethical and moral implications of the obesity epidemic with leaders of several world religions who sight scripture calling all believers to live healthful lives free of overindulgence and laziness, characteristics that are sadly becoming the norm.
The film goes on to expose the public policies that have been institutionalized by the government and their industrial paymasters who have worked to create an infrastructure that forces farmers to over-produce all the wrong kinds of foods for mass consumption. Add to that further policies that force the price of vegetables artificially high and the price of intensely processed food artificially low, making the poor uniquely positioned to suffer from the results of public policy on obesity.
Other policies and government programs that contribute to obesity are also explored, including those in our schools that are making our children obese. From George Bush's No Child Left Behind proposals and the Federal School Lunch Program to budget cuts and vending machines, America's public schools are becoming the perfect storm of conditions causing unprecedented weight gain in our nation's youth.
But most frightening of all are the National Security implications, causing Carmona to wonder, "Where will our soldiers, sailors and airmen come from? Where will our police and firemen come from if the youngsters today are on a trajectory that says that they will be obese?"
In fact, the problems with the military are presenting themselves now. According to Dr. Linda Kinsinger (U.S. Dept. of Veteran's Affairs) 71% of our veterans are overweight or obese and they suffer more amputations due to type 2 diabetes than from war-related injuries.
Clearly, America is on the wrong path and drastic action is needed to reverse this pandemic weight gain that is negatively affecting every segment of our population. Like Dr. Lionel Tiger says in the film, "It's a battle we fight three times a day and we've all been drafted. It's truly the most democratic of wars."
Film producer Bryan Young, 28, lost 40 pounds over two years when making the documentary, Killer at Large, which details some of the reasons and possible solutions to the nation s obesity epidemic.
The film premieres Friday in New York and opens to wider distribution in January. An educational version (45 minutes) will be offered on DVD through the web site on Dec. 1; a theatrical version (104 minutes) will be available on DVD in April.
The documentary takes a broad look at many causes of overweight including our toxic food environment, the problems with school lunches and vending machines and the impact food lobbyists have on determining government policies. It also includes stories about young people who ve had gastric bypass surgery or liposuction. Plus, there are interviews with dozens of people who have tried to bring attention to the obesity problem including former president Bill Clinton, Kelly Brownell of Yale University and consumer advocate Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Young says making the documentary was eye-opening to him. At six-foot tall, he weighed 260 pounds when filming began two years ago. As he learned about the causes of obesity, the first thing he did was cut out fast food which he was eating almost daily for lunch. I lost 10 pounds in a month.
Then he stopped drinking caloric beverages such as juice and Gatorade and started drinking water and coffee. He had given up regular soda 10 years ago.
Young, who now weighs 220 pounds, says he isn t been able to go the gym as much as he d like to because he has been busy putting the finishing touches on the documentary, which cost $300,000 to make.
So what will it take to reverse this epidemic? Telling people to eat less and exercise more isn t working, says producer Steven Greenstreet. It s an extremely complicated and multi-faceted problem.
Adds Young: It s going to take progressive public policy action. We need to take action in our communities and schools.
Proceeds from Friday s New York premiere are being donated to the Children s International Obesity Foundation. The film s producers and the foundation will be presenting actor Chevy Chase and his wife Jayni with an award for their work in fighting childhood obesity. --USA Today, Nov. 19, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
We see practically everything on this topic; this film is well done indeed. For example, the footage of former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona shows him telling audiences that "obesity is the terror within; and unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist event you can point out to me." Wow, what a statement! But the facts are there to support his claims: we are inundated with medical statistics and testimony from people from all walks of life that obesity is a fantastically serious problem that merits our immediate attention. Indeed, the film begins with us meeting a twelve year old girl, Brooke Bates, who has not been able to control her weight. Her parents willingly sign her up for liposuction despite her tender age! Yes, the liposuction procedure and an additional tummy tuck work wonders for her while she exercises--until, that is, she regains the weight that she lost; and by the end of the film we learn that she's going with her parents for an even more invasive procedure even though she's still only thirteen!
And it isn't just Brooke Bates. Bill Clinton goes on record as saying that obesity is a killer; and he's right. We get great comments from Dr. Linda Kinsinger who is the Director of The VA National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention that "71% of our veterans are overweight or obese;" and people like Ralph Nader and Neil LaBute (film director and author of the book entitled "Fat Pig") all share their stories about the horrors of people practically eating their way into the grave. Meme Roth of National Action Against Obesity also has plenty to say on this topic and the issues surrounding it.
But there's so much more in this film. The film show how junk food companies kiss up to members of Congress and others to get their vending machines distributed practically everywhere we look; this means that we can't go too far without seeing a cue that we should be eating or drinking some very calorie-rich food. Companies like Frito Lay and McDonalds can buy their ways into everyone's home; their commercials are designed to look like regular Saturday morning cartoons and this takes advantage of the fact that very young kids under the age of eight typically cannot distinguish between commercials and regular television programming. The commercials lead young kids to believe that if they eat at McDonalds everything they will live happily ever after! In addition, I love the part in the film when one mother complains to a panel of representatives from fast food companies that their commercials are undermining her ability to teach her children to eat healthy food and to stay away from junk food. We also get comments by a school lunch worker who says that the quality of lunches is so poor because of the way the federal government reimburses schools for their lunch programs--the school must give a certain minimum of calories to each student; and if they gave a healthy lunch they wouldn't meet the calorie minimum requirement and thus they would lose their lunch program funding!
There's actually much more in this film so if you think I've given it all away and spoiled it for you I can happily assure you that this is not the case. The DVD also comes with extras; I liked the deleted scenes in particular. There is even an abridged version for educational purposes in the classroom; but hopefully teachers can show the complete version to school kids as soon as they're able to follow along.
The only thing I didn't care for is that the film doesn't focus enough on the incredible self-discipline that it really, really takes to lose weight. In many cases (but certainly not all) there simply isn't any excuse or alternative for losing weight--you need to exercise more and eat smaller amounts of food that is very healthy for you. In the past whenever I have been overweight, as I am now, this has been the only method I ever tried that worked for me when I wanted to become thinner. In addition, they show George W. Bush encouraging exercise but they do it in a way that seems to mock him and belittle his sincerity. While I was not sorry to see Mr. Bush leave office several months ago, I don't see why they should mock him for encouraging people to exercise. Otherwise this is a very good film.
Killer at Large does a fine job of exploring the serious epidemic of obesity and the terrible health problems that result from many, many people being way too overweight. I recommend this film for people studying the obesity epidemic; this film should be mandatory viewing for school kids once they are old enough to learn from it. Moreover, people who are overweight like me should watch this film and perhaps gain enough strength from it to be brave and do something constructive about losing weight.
Sadly, even if people have studied this subject like I have, they may still partake in the demand for these FLPs. Wait until you see the scene where parents protest Sesame Street when the show begins promoting vegetables instead of cookies. The ignorance is very disturbing.
This obesity problem is multi-faceted in that it involves personal choice, culture, ignorance, cost, politics, corporate profits, etc. This movie provides a different perspective on the issue than Food, Inc. and King Corn (also excellent movies). If you care about your children and do not know much about this subject, buy this movie and change your family's eating habits. Knowledge is power...do not be a pawn to the "food" manufacturers. Know what food is and what FLPs are (brocolli vs. cheese nips, alaskan wild salmon vs. fast food fish sandwich, etc.) As a marketing major AND nursing major, I understand these issues. Watch the scene where the clever advertisers use Shrek to sell FLPs to children. This is why I exited marketing...I could not, in good conscience, lie to people just so I could fatten my wallet. However, some of these advertisers do not realize what they are doing.
It will be interesting to see how the country will pay for the coming onslaught of sick people. What will happen to medicare and medicaid? Healthcare costs and insurance will increase. The CDC has said 1 in 3 americans will have diabetes within the next 15 years at the rate we are going. Wow. I could go on and on. Buy this movie and begin to understand the issues. If you are a pawn and refuse to change then save your money...you will need it to pay for healthcare and prescriptions as you slowly kill yourself with the western diet.