Park City, Utah — Academy Award-winning director Louie Psihoyos, whose 2009 Sundance doc The Cove changed forever how the world thinks about dolphins and whaling, is back at this year’s fest with another startling doc, The Game Changers, about the benefits of veganism.
As someone who can think of nothing more enticing on a freezing January night than a fireside dinner of boeuf Bourgignon with a ruby red Pinot Noir and a crusty baguette, this new film from executive producer James Cameron has shaken my world. I adore meat, and always thought I would eat it until I dropped. Now, though, I’ve begun to wonder. Maybe that unknown date in the future when I finally keel over will arrive too soon if I keep on assuaging my hunger with Herefords.
Director Psihoyos, left, has put together an impressive list of world-class athletes, doctors, scientists, cultural folk heroes, and everyday people who speak to the many advantages of veganism — the practice of eating a diet entirely based on plants. In veganism, products that are derived from animals in any way, such as eggs, milk and dairy products, are not allowed.
Think you can’t get enough protein without eating animal products? That is pretty much the first objection the doc raises, then proceeds to shred with the testimony of believable talking heads with impeccable credentials.
Think you need meat to be strong? Meet Patrik Baboumian, a vegetarian since 2005 and a vegan since 2011. He holds fistfuls of records for lifting and carrying monstrously heavy loads, including the world record for a punishing competition called the yoke-walk, in which he carried 560 kilograms across the finish line in 28 seconds. He accomplished this seemingly impossible feat in 2015, eating as a vegan.
Or what about eating meat to be fast? Olympian Morgan Mitchell, the two-time Australian 400-metre champion, turned to veganism to boost her athletic success. “Sometimes you have to do things that you know your competitors aren’t doing, getting every single advantage you can,” she says. Ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek ran broke a record running the grueling Appalachian trail on a vegan diet. American cyclist Dotsie Bausch says she got faster after switching to veganism. “When I transitioned over to an entirely plant-based diet, I became like a machine,” she says.
Perhaps you believe a man needs to eat meat for, er, virility? That’s addressed head-on in an oh-my-God-I-can’t-believe-I’m-watching-this segment. In the screening I attended, the audience erupted with laughter repeatedly as Dr. Aaron Spitz conducts an experiment with three college athletes wearing devices to measure their overnight erections. With graphs and charts of data from the recording devices, Spitz shows the men that they have more frequent, bigger and harder erections after eating a vegan burrito for dinner compared to eating a meat-based burrito for dinner. At the conclusion of the experiment, Spitz asks the three men where they would like to take their dates for dinner — all three opt, natch, for the vegan resto.
While The Game Changers is mostly focused on veganism and human health, it takes a shot at convincing us that veganism is even more important for the planet’s health. It succeeds here, too, clearly demonstrating the ways raising animals for food contributes to staggering greenhouse gas emissions.
Far from being an intolerable screed for a lifestyle choice many of us disdain, The Game Changers is as entertaining a film as it is informative. And if the audience members I saw it with here in Park City are any indication, the film is going to spark some very interesting discussions when the filmgoers return home.
As for my house? I left the film convinced that eliminating or at least vastly reducing the amount of meat we consume would be a no-brainer. It’s going to be harder than I thought, though. A certain member of my household is not having any of it, issuing the following comment (repeatedly): “They’re going to have to pry my hamburger out of my cold, dead hands.”
Still from The Game Changers, above, and headshot of director Louie Psihoyos, top courtesy Sundance Institute
A still from The Game Changers shows German record-busting weightlifter and strongman Patrik Baboumian, centre, who is a vegan.