The Big "What If...": Spurlock Eats McDonalds for a Month, while Willmott Imagines the South Winning the Civil War
by Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks
Images of familiar golden arches emblazoned with the word "obesity" can be found on buttons here in Park City, while a caricature of an overweight clown, branded with the term "Mc Supersized" is seen on promotional posters around town. The teasers have created sizable interest among Sundance festival-goers for Morgan Spurlock's debut feature doc "Super Size Me," and the film has yet to have its first screening in Park City (it will premiere here at Sundance today).
In "Super Size Me," which indieWIRE screened last week, Spurlock explores the impact of fast food and obesity on Americans today. Last February, the director decided to eat only McDonalds food for an entire month, three meals per day, and documented the impact on his health. Along the way he also talks with an array of people, from former Secretary General David Satcher to a man who eats Big Macs every single day.
The idea for "Super Size Me" was born on Thanksgiving Day in 2002 as Spurlock was watching TV after a big holiday meal. Upon learning about two women who were suing McDonalds for their own obesity, Spurlock decided to determine the health affects of fast food after learning that McDonalds believed that their meals could not be linked to the health problems, and were in fact nutritious.
"I thought it was really great, bad idea," Spurlock said, laughing during a conversation with indieWIRE on Friday morning.
Over the course of the film we see that the impact of a fast food diet is much worse than he or his doctors ever expected. He has also lost his taste for McDonalds food altogether.
"Nobody loved the cow and the swine more than me," Spurlock said, adding that since completing the stunt he has eaten the food only once since Completing his binge in March of last year. While shooting pick-up shots for the film last summer he ordered a McDonalds meal but now says, "I feel so bad after eating the food now."
After learning that McDonald's mascot Ronald McDonald is never to be seen eating McDonald's own food, Spurlock asked artist Ron English (www.popaganda.com) to create the image of a bloated Ronald. It is now his key image for the film and Spurlock has even created a stuffed doll version.
"This is very symbolic of what the film means to us," Spurlock said, adding, "What would happen if Ronald ate the food?"
Spurlock, who unsuccessfully pursued an interview with a McDonalds executive for the film, is hoping to find a distributor for the movie and feels it can withstand any legal challenge from the corporate giant. He said he has hope because he sees the company responding to health concerns by broadening its menu. "The salads are a step in the right direction," Spurlock said. But he reminded diners that with the dressing, it has more calories than a Big Mac sandwich.
"The world of fair use and parody and social satire is a great thing that our constitution allows us to do," Spurlock said, concluding, "Somebody will get behind the film, there will be somebody who will believe in what we are saying."
Spurlock's "Super Size Me" is not the only film in Park City to take shots at the Golden Arches. "The Yes Men" from Chris Smith, Dan Ollman and Sarah Price, looks at the infamous culture jammers and features a segment about McDonalds, including a hilarious new burger, that defies proper description here. [Eugene Hernandez]
CIVIL WAR RE-VISITED
Although the South as a block has successfully positioned itself as a dominant force in national politics, it was, in fact, the Union that won the war, which ended slavery in 1865. But, what if the South had actually triumphed as many who fought for the Confederacy believed in 1861? Kevin Willmott's film, "CSA: The Confederate States of America," which debuts in the American Spectrum section today, explores the subject in a faux doc disguised as an investigative report.
"To me, slavery wasn't ancient history," Willmott, who is African-American, told indieWIRE near Main Street on Thursday. "My own father was born in 1898, so to me, slavery wasn't ancient history."
Willmott uses the documentary format to bring slavery into the present, complete with mock commentary, fake film clips and even racist commercials based on real products. No doubt viewers will laugh uncomfortably at times and the film will certain provoke a discussion.
"There's a lot of film history [in the film] and I think audiences [at Sundance] will get the jokes," said Willmott, who is a professor of film studies at Kansas University added.
"The film is not an attack on the South, the North was responsible [for slavery] too," Willmott said, adding that he screened the film at a university in Arkansas and received positive feedback. Also giving a positive nod was director Spike Lee who signed on as executive producer of the movie, giving it a big boost. "I think he liked the film for its cultural and political choices," Willmott said. "It's a validation of our efforts." [Brian Brooks]