“Ice cream will give you cancer.” A prophecy foretold by a washed-out, bulk-repellent 15 year old kid, a Men’s Health reader. It was a scrap of disease mongering, liberated from articles promising sex, that he’ll never have. It was a health risk omen: an accidental truth that would later be confirmed by a dark-haired French woman. In Notre Poison Quotidien (Our Daily Poison), Marie-Monique Robin puts down her fork and questions the authority of those lab coats who decide what is good to eat.
Like any other piece of hard-hitting investigative journalism, this documentary begins in a grocery store. We get a trolley seat view of a woman’s single-minded assault on the fruit and veg section. A technicolor assortment of produce later, we come head-to-head with an imposing wall of carbonated crap, tattooed with Coca Cola insignias. This turns out to be an auspicious time to drop the words “chronic disease”. This documentary labels pesticide residue and food additives with the banner of “possible brain damage, sterility and cancer”. Throughout the film, Robin marks everything on our store shelves with tossed out remarks which contain the word poison. Her paper trail is a footpath that spans the basements of health organizations all over the world. After a relentless downpour of stats, her research is decisive: FOOD CAN BE LETHAL. The little pieces of “scientific enhancement” that lands up on your plate are not as safe as you think.
As the writer/director, Marie-Monique Robin becomes a martyr for the interests of generation average. Eco-warrior meets consumer rights champion – a prototype created in her previous documentary, The World According to Monsanto. If you blank out the narrator’s use of that whore-ish slogan “knowledge is power”, then Robin’s latest effort is a striking piece of infotainment. But the entertainment does take second place to the truth telling and the dead lab rats. The 2 hour length does lead to uncomfortable seat shuffling and the hope of a Bollywood style intermission. It’s an ambling crisscross between black and white footage, support groups, edutainment cartoons and bits of American propaganda. But basically it stays sleek, traditional and French. Robin pushes for a probing, big-budget, hard news piece and it comes off well. It’s all the confrontational questions without the Deborah Patta scowl. This documentary makes it clear that this could be our Great War. Consumerism and commercial interest could literally kill us.
*Our Daily Poison will be screening in Jozi on the 16th and 23rd at Nu Metro Hyde Park and in Cape Town on the 20th and 23rd at Nu Metro V&A.