I’ve reached the halfway point of this year’s US Documentary Competition profiles: Stephanie Soechtig’s FED UP, an investigation into America’s obesity epidemic.
Sundance Program Description:
Upending the conventional wisdom of why we gain weight and how to lose it, FED UP unearths a dirty secret of the American food industry — far more of us get sick from what we eat than anyone has previously realized. Filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig and TV journalist Katie Couric lead us through this potent exposé that uncovers why — despite media attention, the public’s fascination with appearance, and government policies to combat childhood obesity — generations of American children will now live shorter lives than their parents did.
Through riveting interviews and sharp examination of data, Couric reveals a 30-year campaign by the food industry, aided by the U.S. government, to mislead and confuse the American public, resulting in one of the largest health epidemics in history. Soechtig and Couric illustrate the effects by following three obese children as they live their daily lives, fighting an uphill battle to lose weight. The lessons offered in FED UP are an essential primer for living a healthier lifestyle. Learning them may add years to your life.
This is Soechtig’s second documentary, following the bottled water-focused TAPPED, to pursue health and public policy issues. Her investigative approach was honed in the world of television, where she produced for 20/20, Primetime Live, Good Morning America, and The O’Reilly Factor. Producer Eve Marson was part of the production of Sundance alums BIGGER STRONGER FASTER* (2008) and DIRT! THE MOVIE (2009), co-producer Sarah Gibson produced Sundance alums SMALL TOWN GAY BAR (2006) and IOUSA (2008), as well as TAPPED and Ondi Timoner’s COOL IT, while producer Sarah Olson and co-producer Kristin Lazure both also previously worked with Soechtig – the former on TAPPED, and the latter on The O’Reilly Factor. Serving as both executive producer and narrator is noted television journalist Katie Couric. Also on board as executive producers are Laurie David, who produced Sundance alum AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (2006, Oscar winner); Regina Kulik Scully, who has the same role for fellow 2014 US Doc Competition title PRIVATE VIOLENCE as well as for Sundance alums ANITA (2013), THE INVISIBLE WAR (2012), and MISS REPRESENTATION (2011); Canadian philanthropist Heather Reisman; and Soechtig’s partners at Atlas Films, philanthropist and entrepreneurs Michelle and Michael Walrath, who also executive produced TAPPED. Among the project’s editors are Dan Swietlik, who also edited fellow 2014 title HAPPY VALLEY as well as AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH.
Why You Should Watch:
Like Soechtig’s debut doc, her follow up is an engaging exposé and a persuasive, urgent call to action. If TAPPED made viewers – including me – vow to avoid drinking bottled water because of the deleterious effects on our health and environment, Soechtig’s new film is poised to have an even greater impact, making audiences not only question what they eat and why, but to push back against the government and food lobbies for their deliberate role in fostering ill health, and to demand reform.
For more information, join the mailing list on the film’s website and visit its Facebook page. Check out Soechtig’s Meet the Artist Sundance video profile and her Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.
To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2014 Twitter list.