In the documentary Vegucated, filmmaker Marisa Miller Wolfson sets out to show how the vegan lifestyle can be adopted by anyone. It follows three New Yorkers of different backgrounds as they adopt a plant-based diet for six weeks, and then asks them if they’ll go back to eating as they did before. After winning the prize for the Best Documentary Feature at the Toronto Indie Film Festival, Vegucated debuted in the U.S. last week in NYC with a screening and a Q&A with the director and cast.
Although most of the audience members at the New York screening were already vegans, the film serves as an introduction to the vegan diet. None of Wolfson’s subjects had ever been vegan before, and the film teaches viewers the basic tenets of veganism along with Ellen, Tesla, and Brian.
To illustrate the health benefits of a vegan diet, Wolfson takes her subjects to see Dr. Joel Fuhrman before and after the six-week experiment. Fuhrman specializes in helping patients achieve better health by adopting a plant-based diet and is the author of several books on the subject, including Eat to Live and Eat for Health.
More central to the film’s focus are the ethical motivations behind veganism. The film includes a brief factory farm “101” that shows viewers the dark, bloody reality of meat production. Wolfson also takes Ellen, Tesla, and Brian to a vegetarian convention, where they (and the viewers) learn more about how eating fewer animal products reduces pollution and uses fewer natural resources.
Just as the film does not gloss over the reality of factory farming, it also shows the real difficulties of totally changing the way one eats. Teslsa, who comes from a mixed Latin-American background, particularly struggles to stay vegan around her meat-loving family. The cast doesn’t always make the healthiest food choices either, and the film is full of heavily processed food, from fake meat and cheese to s’mores. In the Q&A after the screening, Wolfson explained that these foods are often a big part of transitioning to veganism, and are not necessarily staples of a balanced vegan diet.
Vegucated explores the health benefits and environmental impact of veganism without being overly dogmatic. The cast is well-chosen and there are many moments of humor. Viewers who are veteran vegans or simply well-informed about the problems of agribusiness and large-scale meat production may not learn a lot, but they will be entertained. “My hope is that people will watch this and say, veganism is not only not crazy, but it’s also a common sense solution to some of the world’s most serious environmental problems,” Wolfson said.
The film is now touring around the United States and will be available on DVD by late November. To see if there’s an upcoming screening near you or to host your own screening, visit the documentary’s website at GetVegucated.com.
October 18th, 2011