New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
To be released on October 1, the new film, “The Game Changers,” directed by Academy-Award-winning director Louie Psihoyos, Executive Director of the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS), is one of the most important films you may see in 2019.
Since he was 14, Psihoyos has believed that one picture can change the world. And his success is founded on that idea. Noted as one of the ten best photographers in the world, and for “The Cove,” about the annual cull of dolphins in Taichei, Japan, Best Feature Documentary Oscar-winner in 2009, followed by the Oscar and Emmy Awards-nominated documentary “Racing Extinction” about the tragic slaughtering of sea life all around the world. Both films expose crimes against nature which must be addressed.
Speaking with the GN about “The Game Changers,” a documentary about how changing to a more plant-based lifestyle helps to save your health and the environment, Psihoyos had undeniably urgent things to say.
GN: What convinced you to agree to directing “The Game Changers”?
LP: To many Hollywood directors and producers films are ten dollars and a box of popcorn; the audience is thought of as “butts in seats.” To me the audience is “minds and hearts in seats”. With film you are given a unique opportunity to change those hearts and minds, and when you can change people, you can change the world. I call documentaries “weapons of mass construction.”
GN: Are you a vegetarian/vegan?
LP: I am now. When I was a photographer working for Fortune magazine I went to a slaughterhouse and I saw a cow with its skin stripped off – it was hanging upside down on a hook from a conveyor belt, it’s head and eyes followed me around the factory as the workers were slicing off parts of its flesh, it was clearly still alive. I had a glimpse into the daily horror show that is our industrial farming. I made a decision to switch my protein entirely to fish, thinking that fish couldn’t feel as much pain, were less sentient.
After 25 years of eating like this I made “The Cove” and one of the last scenes of the film is my crew cutting a sample of hair from the deputy minister of Japanese Fisheries to get a mercury sample. Fish and dolphin meat, of which some Japanese people were eating a lot, can have incredibly high levels of mercury. Mercury is the most toxic non-radioactive element in the world. You want as little as possible in your body because it destroys neurons. The term “mad as a hatter” comes from haberdashers that used mercury to cure fur hats a hundred years ago. The sample from the Japanese Fisheries minister’s hair was 8 times higher than what is considered safe. Out of curiosity I had mine tested and it was through the roof, 44 times higher than the outer reaches of what is deemed safe. I was shocked, what was I going to eat for protein if I cut out all meat?
At the run-up to the Academy Awards in LA I met my first vegan and I asked her what she ate. She said, “everything else–all protein originates in plants.” And then I found out that animals were in fact just the middlemen in nutrition, so I just cut out the middleman and eat plants.
GN: As pertaining to all your own work in preservation, threat of extinction/s, What do you think of the film’s focus on diet change–it’s a huge question, but how does it all fit together?
In this country we spend 3.6 trillion dollars in health care which is really sick care. It’s been estimated that 80-85% of our chronic diseases are preventable by changing our lifestyle. Diet, exercise, reducing stress and having friends you can talk to are the key to living long. If you go to the so-called Blue Zones, regions on the planets where people live the longest, a hundred years or longer without chronic diseases, like heart disease, diabetes and prostate and breast cancer, about 95% of their calories come from a whole foods plant-based diet.
The island of Ikaria in Greece is one of the five known Blue Zones, it’s known as the island “where people forget to die.” In fact, I’m making a film right now with Dr. Dean Ornish who over the last 42 years of research has shown that you can actually reverse heart disease, early stage type II diabetes and some cancers with diet and lifestyle. Right now, he’s seeing if his preventative lifestyle intervention can reverse early stage Alzheimer’s Disease, a disease that will affect 1 and 3 American and become our most costly disease as we start living longer.
The good news is that if you’re an environmentalist and care about leaving the world a little better place for our children and future generations, changing to a more plant-based lifestyle not only helps you live longer without disease, it helps save the environment. The raising of animals for human consumption is the largest cause of water pollution, the largest cause of habitat destruction for wild creatures—the Amazon is being incinerated to grow soy to feed cows—the greenhouse gases of animal agriculture exceeds the direct emissions from the entire transportation sector and animal agriculture is the largest cause of fresh water use.
The average American eats about 10,000 animals in their lifetime. All of that destruction and suffering is avoidable by changing what’s on your plate, it’s a win for the environment, a win for wild and farmed animals and it’s a win for your health.
GN: You have an astounding number of new projects going.
LP: I’m ramping up production on several films and I’m excited by all of them because they all have a chance to make the world a little better place.
GN: Please list them for us.
LP:” Food be thy Medicine” the documentary about Dr. Dean Ornish’s unified theory of health, that all these diseases share the same underlying causes, which I mention above. He’s testing this radical new theory with Alzheimer’s Disease, a disease that has no known cure. This disease is personal because it killed his mother and her siblings and he himself has the Alzheimer’s gene.
I’m directing “Act Like a Holy Man,” film with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu based on their best-selling work, “The Book of Joy–How to Find Joy in a World of Sorrow.”
I’m executive producing a documentary, “She Change,” about four female big wave surfers that bond together and win parity in the world’s most dangerous sport. –
I’m directing an eight-part series on plant-based nutrition, “Food 2.” This project picks up where The Game Changers left off.
“The Last Place on Earth.” The Leuser Ecosystem in Northwestern Sumatra is the quintessential Jungle Book; it’s the last place in the world where elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans are found together in the wild, but their habitat is being decimated by illegal palm oil plantations. We follow 4 courageous activists fighting against great odds, who are winning the battle to return this gem of nature back to the wild.
“Overpopulation”. Scientists have been warning us for decades that the Earth is beyond its carrying capacity to sustain humanity, but the revolution in agriculture in the 1970’s helped us avoid a looming disaster. The world’s population has since doubled, and tension is mounting again that science may not get us out of the coming demand on the Earth’s finite resources.
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