Bite Size (2014) / Documentary
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but I'd rate it PG for thematic material and some violent video game images
Running time: 90 min.
Cast: Davion Bland, KeAnna Pollard, Emily Patrick, Moy Gutierrez, Lisa Ross
Director: Corbin Billings
Review published March 8, 2015
Bite Size is a documentary exploring the massive problem of childhood obesity in the United States. Spotlighting the lives of four such tween-aged kids from different walks of life, the doc, directed by Corbin Billings, demonstrates how the problem exists in many places, and in many situations.
Childhood obesity, as shown in the film, comes from a mixture of circumstances, many of them having to do with environment, upbringing, and lack of proper education on nutrition and exercise. We meet Emily Patrick undergoing her second trip to a weight-loss farm for kids that has cost her parents dearly, and while she learns quite a few things there to help her shed a good deal of the weight, the weight piles back on as soon as she heads back home where all of the "wrong" foods are a constant temptation -- and she eats the "right" foods in the wrong ways. Davion, already a diabetic at a very young age, has emotional and anger-management issues, but is determined to still live out his dream by trying out for the school football team, even though he can't run as fast or as long as his teammates. Moy is a couch potato, content to play video games all day while munching away, and his father's not setting a positive example by eating the wrong foods in front of him, while continuously berating the lad for being lazy and fat. KeAnna is a spunky rebel, wanting to change deep down, but the more people try to apply that change for her, the more she does the opposite by stubbornly resisting -- she's going to have to make up her own mind if she's going to ever be the healthier young woman she wants to be.
The well-shot and skillfully edited documentary isn't preachy, and some might come away thinking it gives us the problems but not the answers. I would say to those people that, if you feel that way, you're probably not paying attention. All of the children are shown as wanting to be healthier, but not willing to make the kind of lifestyle changes necessary to achieve this goal, and in most instances, their parents and educators don't always set good examples themselves. It's pretty evident from what we're shown, judiciously culled from what must have been countless of hours of footage (some of it looks re-enacted, but nothing overbearing), that these kids have lots of negative reinforcement around them. Positive change will have to come from within.
Bite Size is neither made for just for kids nor just for adults, but rather, for both to watch together to have something to discuss afterward. In other words, it's not trying to force feed you a health agenda, but it is offering up enough food for thought to plant that seed of inspiration for voluntary change. Billings deliberately makes Bite Size more about the personal stories of the four kids, as well as the parents and educators who are looking out for their well-being (Lisa Ross, a school counselor who can no longer sit idly by and see more children lost to poor health, is a shining example). It's not about spouting statistics or giving you a step-by-step process on what to tell your kids or the magic formula to get them to be fit overnight. It's also not about telling you what to think, but it does provide the content necessary for you to examine your own situation, as well as delivering much fodder for further discussion.
By the end of the film, one realizes that the struggle with obesity isn't just about eating and exercise, but it's really about coming to grips with finding a way to embrace and love oneself first, and from there, the desire and determination to change will emerge. Bite Size never overtly criticizes or condemns, but it does show many of the attitudes and instances where changes could have been made but aren't, or a disconnect has occurred between child and their mentors.
Although it is a bit of a shame that such an epidemic is given little attention politically, especially when corporations are reaping great rewards selling cheaply made and grossly unhealthy foods to people who have been brought up in an environment where it exists in abundance, the documentary offers the solution that weight loss and fitness are something we shouldn't expect others to force us to do. It's up to us, as individuals, to care about ourselves enough to reassess what we put into out bodies and how we treat it, and to pass along that knowledge to our children we love, making it our responsibility to care for their well-being.
The refreshing thing about Bite Size is that it doesn't show victory in the form of weight loss so much as victory in the form of mental determination. All four of the kids want to be healthy, but they keep finding ways to revert back to old habits and self-defeatist attitudes. As we look back on the kids one year later, we don't see a dramatic metamorphosis in their bodies so much as great changes in their minds. We're not given enough time to see just how these changes will ultimately effect their attitudes toward fitness and nutrition, but we definitely see they are all ready to take one more step necessary on the long read to wellness, both physically and mentally, which is the most critical fuel necessary to the path to (hopefully) a long and healthy life.
©2015 Vince Leo