Forks Over Knives, the newest food flick, opened this Friday at the Lagoon Theater. A feature length documentary, it argues that a plant-based diet (forks) will prevent heart disease, diabetes, and cancer that require surgery (knives).
Powerful, if not artful, the story unfolds through scenes of open-heart surgeries, obese Americans gobbling steaks and slurping ice cream, and average folks counting pills. Leading authorities, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. (Cleveland Clinic), Dr. Colin Campbell (Cornell School of Nutrition Sciences, author of The China Study), and USDA Human Nutrition Director Dr. David Klurfeld present their research supporting a vegan diet. Competitive athletes and average folks who are now cured through such a regime share their stories, too.
Most, if not all, of the so called diseases of affluence can be controlled or even reversed by rejecting animal-based and processed foods, says Campbell and Esslestyn. This researcher and doctor came to similar conclusions through their work more than 40 years back, but did not begin collaborating until 10 years ago. Vibrant and passionate 80-somethings, Campbell and Esslestyn believe a vegan diet will cure our most difficult diseases and the world. The film addresses the impact of our industrial food complex on global warming, environmental issues, animal cruelty, and children’s health.
The film concludes with Esslestyn’s son, Rip, a former professional triathloner turned Texas fire fighter and author of the best-selling The Engine 2 Diet, who relays how he and his team put his father’s work into practice. “Fire fighters have among the highest rates of heart disease in the country and are continuously under stress,” he said the other day when in town. “When one of our team member's cholesterol spiked to 344, we decided we needed to help him out. At the fire station, we cook and eat together on our shifts. So, we adopted this regime and his weight dropped 20 pounds and his cholesterol is now 196. Now 200 fire fighting companies are eating this way.”
Last week’s premier, sponsored by Whole Foods, was SRO. A panel discussion followed the show. The filmmakers and Rip admit that they steer clear of the term vegan to avoid negative connotations it creates. Not a bad idea, actually. Rip makes the point several times that “real men eat plants.”
If Food Inc. didn’t scare you off meat, Forks Over Knives might. Lee Fulkerson, filmmaker and narrator, who looks and sounds a little like Al Gore, gives a sense of gravity to the slow, clunky proceedings. You just can’t help but watch. Fulkerson tries to balance his polemics with other professional of differing opinions, but presents these folks in an unflattering light. That said, Forks Over Knives serves up plenty of food for thought.