The Game Changers hits world cinema screens

Documentaries like The Game Changers don’t come around frequently enough.  This means that when they do arrive there’s excitement and interest, along with trepidation that the most has been made of an opportunity.

17 September 2019

Thankfully The Game Changers comes at an ideal time, riding a wave of interest in veganism while retaining a strong focus of what it was meant to achieve.

Gladiators and marketing

It follows the journey of martial artist and combat instructor James Wilks who started researching nutrition following an injury.  The research leads him to question his long-held belief in the essential nature of animal products.  It starts by taking him to researchers analysing the bones of Roman gladiators then witnessing Scott Jurek’s epic 2200 mile Appalachian trail record.  He also encouters the historical errors that lead to the adoption of the animal protein myths.

The film-makers strike a balance with some success; there’s science there but it’s understandable and not too technical for a cinema audience.  Big stars like Lewis Hamilton and Arnold Schwartzenngger play parts but the temptation to rely on their fame too heavily is resisted.  There’s some fantastic interviews with and footage of vegan strongman Patrik Baboumian, track athlete Morgan Mitchell and ultradistance runner Scott Jurek.

In those interviews lies the insurmountable issue in building a film of this type.  The explosion of veganism in sport means that the film’s omission of masses of big names means the loss of what those individuals had to offer the final product.  End credits list several dozen athletes who were interviewed but not included in the final cut.  Clearly the makers faced a necessary but painful set of decisions which leaves the door open for similar productions in future.

Sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed Coach Robert dos Remedios featured in one scene. That a nationally leading sports coach with close to 30 years’ veganism behind him could slip into the film without even being identified and introduced is testament to the depth of interesting vegans available.

Range of characters

Other focusses include Charity Morgan, wife of pro American footballer Derrick, who cooked vegan for him and ended up working as a professional chef for his team.  Retired firefighter Rip Esseltyn reminded his former colleagues that heart attacks kill more firefighters than their hazardous work.  He enrolled them in an eating study with blood results they were all pleased with.  Snap studies on American footballers highlighted immediate effects of diet on the health of their arteries, while another with college sportsmen took a sly and revealing look at the effect of diet on sexual performance.

Those with a knowledge of some of the personalities in sport will notice that the term plant based was used deliberately on occasions instead of vegan.  It seems to be deliberate, a move to include those on an overwhelming plant-based diet rather than sticking to the entirely vegan athletes.  Discussions over decisions like this could go on forever.  In order to retain accessibility to audiences who may be full meat eaters, it’s likely to prove positive.

Pollution, land supply, water and emissions were inevitably covered in a brief but well balanced section.  But the emphasis was always going to be on sport.

Changing the game

It is a well-made film, it makes the most of the characters involved, draws on science, impressive physical feats, emotion and humour in good proportions.  It draws the audience in.  It makes points without excessive sensationalism, and is the film we needed.

Watching the film I felt that it was impossible to ignore the size of the misconception that we as a society had swallowed regarding animal protein.  I hope that audiences will be open enough to accept that this is the case.  It also emphasised that the vegan movement has come an incredibly long way in a remarkably short time, and become mainstream from a recent point of exclusion.

I also felt it showed that the further progress of veganism is inevitable.  The science, product availability and sheer enthusiasm of those who’ve discovered it makes it unstoppable.

 The Game Changers

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