GSK to Fund Creative Coalition Documentary on Obesity

Last week, according to the New York Times, GlaxoSmithKline (which sells the weight-loss drug Alli in many countries) announced that it will provide a yet-undisclosed sum of money to the Creative Coalition for a documentary on obesity – a film that is already being compared to “An Inconvenient Thruth”. Although a budget has not been set, an Academy Award-winning director will be named on Jan. 25 at the Sundance Film Festival

The Creative Coalition is the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan social and political advocacy organization of the entertainment industry. In an interview to Sharon Waxman, Robin Bronk, the executive director of the Creative Coalition had this to say: “It’s reverse product placement. It’s issue placement. It’s organic for us. We’re using filmmaking to promote a film message. Art influences. Look at Al Gore; he could not move the needle on global warming until he went Hollywood. And he was the vice president.”

As to GSK’s role in the documentary? “They have absolutely no creative control. Zero.”

Sure, GSK, as the maker of Alli, has a vested interest in obesity. So is this just going to be a pricey infomercial for Alli? Probably not. As pointed out in the New York Times, “As a rule, documentary makers are an aggressively anticorporate crowd.”

Personally, I very much hope that this documentary will also take on the issue of weight-bias and discrimination that faces obese people and will not simply portray obesity as the result of stupid lazy slobs making poor choices. Based on the generally negative depictions of obese people and the abundant discriminatory fat jokes in Hollywood films, I will be watching keenly to see how much finger pointing and blame will find its way into the final cut.

Edmonton, Alberta