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by Mark Maxwell Abushady • New York City

Killer At Large: Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat
A film by Steven Greenstreet
Shinebox Media Productions

Wow. This film packs a punch. Anticipating a simple film about why obesity is “bad” – a “no-brainer” – I was unprepared for the multitude of angles from which this film’s creator approaches the issue. From the evolutionary advantages of the drive that encourages eating as much high calorie food, when it was found, as possible, to the backlash against thin, anorexic-looking women, to the incredible role of stress (formerly physical and thus, calorie burning to current stresses which are mental and thus, non-calorie burning), the film is full of information.

Certainly, the filmmaker sets out to prove that the title’s tag line is literal: obesity is America’s greatest threat. Opening with several statements by Dr. Richard Carmona, U.S. Surgeon General from 2002-2006, we witness part of a liposuction operation on a 12 year old. The disturbing footage includes a view of the containers (16) the fat gets sucked into. Full of statements and statistics, the film attempts to cover the many reasons for obesity, as well as the reasons attempts by government to battle the issue have been doomed from the start. Corn subsidies and the concern of high fructose corn syrup, the lack of subsidies for smaller and organic farmers, the addicting effects of sugar, increase of meat in diets, the bias in our culture of quantity over quality, and cheap food being paramount, even if it’s unhealthy, why poorer people are more likely to be overweight, issues with the Secretary of Agriculture and the historic ties of this and other government positions with corporations and food industry lobbyists, even some surprising figures regarding the cost in calories of fossil fuel in producing a calorie of food. . . many, many stones are overturned as the film unfolds. A pretty convincing comparison of advertising companies to wolves or lions, and young children as the prey they take down is especially haunting.

With interviewees, appearances, and clips of such notables as Ralph Nader, Ann Cooper, Marion Nestle, Chevy Chase, Bill Maher, Dr. Sheldon Jacobson, Michael Pollan, Jim Hightower, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and Bill Clinton, this film, though tackling a huge subject, does an admirable job.

FoodMatters: You Are What You Eat
A film by James Colquhoun and Laurentine Ten Bosch
Permacology Productions

FoodMatters is simply a must-see film. Again, I say “Wow!”

Through the eyes of a number of nutritional experts, topics such as American agriculture, vitamins, heart disease, cancer care and research, the pharmaceutical and sickness industries, and even the psychiatric industry are examined. With a body of highly intriguing and largely compelling statements and examples of illness treatments involving superfoods, vitamins, raw foods, and organic produce, the viewer is challenged to take control of his/her health and well-being.

Research over the past 80 or so years, which has been forgotten (because it held no profit for the powers that be), is one of the spearheads of contributor Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D., who was a particularly elucidating interviewee amongst others, including Charlotte Gerson of the Gerson Institute, David Wolfe, and Dr. Dan Rogers. Importantly, the film leaves one feeling empowered to make better choices for the self and a better future for all. Given the nature of the conglomerate this film takes on, that is no small feat. The film contains a tongue-in-cheek warning: “Caution: This information could save your life,” but after viewing the film, I believe this to be true.


Making A Killing: The Untold Story of Psychotropic Drugging
Citizens Commission on Human Rights

Why do most of us know at least several people who are on psychotropic drugs (such as Prozac, Wellbutrin, Abilify, Cymbalta, Elavil, Lexapro, Paxil, Ritalin, Xanax, Zoloft, Ambien, Zyprexa)? Why is it that most psychiatrists prescribe such drugs after a single visit, before delving in-depth into causes of mental distresses? Why is there such talk of chemical imbalances when there are no such standards to show what “chemical balance” is, and no tests to demonstrate imbalance? Why are the normal ups and downs of life now encompassed by the definition of ‘bi-polar disorder?’ Why are drugs the automatic choice of treatment for any psychological disorder? Why is the longest clinical trial only 8 weeks long, when these drugs are often ingested for a good part of a person’s lifetime? And why are pharmaceutical commercials now how we diagnose ourselves and are taught what drugs to request from our doctors? These questions should give an idea of the mission of this film.

It is unfortunate that much of the material is presented in a very sensationalistic and highly editorialized fashion. In-your-face graphics (the shattering glass was particularly abundant), and a narrator who sounds for all the world like the “movie-phone guy,” effectively, in this reviewer’s opinion, distance the viewer from the material in the way an irate person, no matter how justified in their rantings, can drive away those around them. Condemning the entire field of psychiatry as “made up,” “illegitimate,” and “devoid of science,” the film, at times, plays as if written by one who had a personal vendetta against the field of psychiatry. This is a shame, as the subject matter is so very important. However, the viewer who perseveres to the second half of the film will be glad he/she did.

It would stand well enough to consider all the ‘syndromes,’ ‘conditions,’ ‘diseases,’ etc. for which the psychiatric profession, in conjunction with the pharmaceutical industry, is happy to provide a diagnosis for – even though the symptoms may be normal, human emotions. The film notes that tests given to teenagers, who are at an admittedly uncomfortable time in their lives, are used to diagnose and prescribe drugs to them left and right. Are these conditions to be medicated, as is the current procedure? AND, medicated with drugs that harm the liver and/or other organs, and have a multitude of psychological side-effects including inducing suicidal thoughts (and deeds) and violent actions?

The Cymbalta section is startling. The section on clinical trials will shock the viewer. And the conclusion of the film, which reminds us that no psychiatric disorder is an actual disease requiring medical treatment (as there are no objective tests or chemical tests), that psychotropic drugs do not resolve mental problems, that, in fact, these drugs mask symptoms and have long-term side effects (sometimes severe), that psychotropic drugs create dependency and addiction, that most mental problems are caused by an underlying physical illness, and that there are many effective non-drug options for mental problems (no matter how severe) . . . this alone is worth the time spent on the film.

For more information and a good sampling of this movie’s message, visit the website noted above. And, yes, see the film!


Autism: Made in the U.S.A.
A Gary Null Production
Music by Hal Cragin

Gary Null’s latest film explores the causes of, cures for, and myths about autism. There are probably very few parents who don’t worry or think twice when it comes to vaccinating their children, given the concerns that have arisen over the years as to the possible connection of such vaccinations with the rise in autism. An announcement made in February of this year that sought to quell the debate (by announcing that no evidence has been found that vaccines cause autism), has not quieted those opposed to immunizations, and a look at this film will certainly give pause to those who are on the fence regarding the issue.

In one of the more noteworthy segments, the film speaks of the establishment of the Federal Vaccine Court by Ronald Reagan with exclusive jurisdiction to award compensation in cases where a child was injured by a vaccine (compensation which is paid by the government, not pharmaceutical companies). Thus far, this court has paid over $2 BILLION to 2,260 families since it was established. This is the court that recently issued the statement that there is no connection between vaccines and autism – a statement “based on three test cases . . .”

The film goes on to explore mainstream and alternative cures, through interviews with various health practitioners and families affected by autism. The most effective part of this film is the section on vaccines – which focuses primarily and quite convincingly on the mercury-containing preservative Thimerosal. Some of the statistics are genuinely disturbing. After this, the film extrapolates causes to include general poisoning of children from their environment by pesticides, food additives, and other environmental and food supply toxins. There are no easy answers here, as different approaches work for different children, and not every child will respond to the same treatment. A homeopathic doctor suggests cutting out sugar, fruit, fruit juice, as well as eliminating television sets, computers, and cell phones for the EMF’s they emit. Much discussed is chelation therapy; others speak of cutting out all potential allergens (dairy, gluten, soy) in the diets of these ultra-sensitive children’s, while yet another doctor extols cod liver oil as part of the cure for her patients. What is striking and irrefutable is the visual evidence of children formerly “shut down”, non-verbal and exhibiting various behaviors on the autism spectrum, now speaking and behaving normally for their age and currently mainstreamed into school thanks to these alternative dietary changes and treatments. ADD, ADHD, and other syndromes are brought into the topic, eventually enlarging the discussion to such a vast complex of childhood syndromes that the film loses some of its focus. Indeed, with such a broad range of expressions (“autisms”), it is a difficult subject to get one’s mind around.

Failure of the press to cover these issues, insufficient size of study and control groups in tests, conflicts of interests in approving and regulating vaccines, ignoring studies by any group other than the CDC, political donations from pharmaceutical companies, the use of fear by doctors to convince parents to vaccinate their children, media not carrying stories so as not to offend their pharmaceutical company advertisers; these topics round out this ambitious film and explain why more of this vital information has not made it to the general public.

I believe this film’s audience should include those dealing with autism, those questioning immunizations, and, in general, parents of young children and prospective parents. Images are accompanied by a very effective, understated soundtrack by Hal Cragin.

Mark Maxwell Abushady is an actor, singer, designer and photographer based in New York City.