Sunday, January 08, 2012

[DVD] Vegucated (2010)

Hello Mr Cow

Being a Singaporean, food is something we can never get away from, with food courts and restaurants around the island serving up gastronomical favourites, some even 24x7. Every food and cultural cuisine can probably be found on our island, and frankly unless it was for religious reasons I hardly have come across anyone who would want to restrict their choice of food. As a meat lover myself, I can never understand why anyone will want to give it up, until now.

Written and directed by Marisa Miller Wolfson, a full time food activist, she embarked on a social experiment to find 3 volunteer film subjects from various backgrounds and demographics, and of course meat lovers as a prerequisite who do not yet know about the ethical and environmental reasons behind being a vegan, to embark on an enlightenment process. In addition they have to go vegan for 6 weeks to see if they can reap some short term health benefits for their labours. Vegucated is that documentary film, and it is snappy in treatment, providing that crucial yet essential basic 101 for anyone curious about being a vegan - it's neither a religion nor a cult - with the basic infrastructure in place in most major, modern cities to support such a lifestyle choice.

The casting and selection of the test subjects of student Tesla Lobo, bartender Brian Flegel and psychiatrist/stand up comedian Ellen Mausner were spot on choices who bring their bright personalities into the film, especially when this documentary is relatively intrusive, and has cameras following them into their kitchens and fridges to take stock of their diet as it is current, and putting their word on the line to endure this 6 weeks of change which is not going to be easy, calling for determined resolve to upturn dietary patterns already established for decades.

As with most documentaries, the story comes out from the editing room, and Marisa and editor Sara Leavitt crafted a film that not only tells the story of each of their subject's journeys, but interspersed them with basic information through the use of comedy and animation, to educate the wider audience. And of course change cannot happen instantly, even if we know about the massive positive advantages of doing, or not doing something, especially when its something as intrinsic as food and putting food onto the table and into one's mouth. Then comes the sucker punch - the stark images and videos of animals being bred for food, be it what they produce or the animals as meat themselves, and the utterly inhumane way they get treated as pure commodities in order to satiate increasing demand of meat and dairy products from those at the top of the food chain, namely us.

There were films in the past that have dealt with the cruelty of animal slaughter and the kind of junk that goes into processed food, such as Richard Linklater's Fast Food Nation, and while that film had put me off fast food for a little while, I'm sad to say I haven't kept to my end of the bargain. The images seen here will shock if one hasn't seen clips of them before from news, current affairs programmes or other films, and you can imagine just how you as an individual are quite helpless to stop what's essentially survival for humankind. Or so we thought was essential. What Vegucated does instead of telling you just the horror stories, is the provision of an alternative to do what all of us as individuals can. And I like alternatives because that means we are still in control and have a conscious choice, whether to continue to poison our bodies and condone what we don't see and hear (but know about nonetheless and choose to ignore), or to take active steps toward a healthier alternative and one small step at a time, reduce demand.

There will always be those who say that documentaries are never objective and are always pushing for an agenda, and yes while this film has its intended purpose, Marisa Miller Wolfson ensures that it doesn't preach, nor berate anyone who doesn't see eye to eye with the objectives or understand what it entails to become a Vegan, or in some cases, semi or mostly Vegan. Vegucated is as educational as it is entertaining, and gets its messages across in the most direct fashion without going over the top or overly indulgent, keeping the narrative to a crisp even though it covers a broad spectrum of topics surrounding Veganism, and a 6 week journey of each of the test subjects.

I guess I'll start to look at what's available in the supermarkets with a keener eye, and make some hard choices. It will be hypocritical of me to proclaim immediately that I'm converting 100%, and frankly it's going to be unrealistic as well, but to be able to take baby steps - I guess those are the important first steps to snap out of inertia - and to try and sustain a lifestyle that's healthier and to meet some goals set in this new year especially on losing some weight. I reckon this will be my challenge equivalent to the scale of getting smokers to quit smoking, so hopefully I won't give it up halfway. Definitely recommended for animal lovers, those curious about Veganism, those wanting to lose weight (especially those who have set this as a New Year Resolution), or are in desire to watch a great inspirational film.

As with most new documentaries, if you're interested to find out more about the documentary and the activities that follow the release of the movie, do check out the following links below. The DVD is also primed for release tomorrow, so you can get your own copy, and decide if you too want to make that positive change for the healthier.

Related Links
- Official Documentary Website
- Page
- Buy the DVD

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