Saturday, 8 November 2014

THE DARK SIDE OF THE CHEW - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Closing Gala Planet In Focus

Gum. The DIRTY secret.
The desecration of body,
of soul, of Mother Earth!
The environmental PESTILENCE!
The Dark Side of the Chew (2014)
Dir. Andrew Nisker

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Watching this film was so utterly repulsive that I found myself gagging and retching throughout. These aberrant expulsions and reflex actions had nothing to do with the quality of the film or lack thereof. In fact, the picture so successfully delivered an important Western Union to my brain that I could have no other response. You see, I hate gum. I have always hated gum. Even as a kid, the very idea of incessantly chomping upon an atrophied orb that I had to spit out, leaving the mindlessly masticated, gob-glistening wad of filth on the ground, sickened me to the soul. And believe me, I had to spit out that malformed plug of putrescence for others to step upon because the very idea of having to, God forbid, touch it with my fingers, if even to dispose of it, induced within me a need to blow chunks of bilious puke willy nilly.

I hated seeing people chew gum. I hated when those same people blew bubbles, cracked it and even worse, chewed it with their maws agape. Where, when, why and how I developed this hatred of gum is a mystery to me. All I know for sure is that I've always possessed this unhinged aversion to it. Worse yet, in middle-age-crazy, my hatred for gum has accelerated with such force that I still go apoplectic when I see and/or hear anyone chewing it, but now, I know that if I was allowed to legally carry a handgun, I'd be tempted to use it upon whatever miscreant displayed such bovine behaviour.

My victims could be man, woman and child. My aim would be so true that I'd show no discriminatory mercy. I'd fill anyone full of lead and proudly declare that I'd be much happier watching an endless loop of Divine eating fresh, steaming dog shit in John Waters's Pink Flamingoes than to ever again witness purported human beings chew their goddamn gum as if they were raised in Texas.

Andrew Nisker's The Dark Side of the Chew is, at least for me, both a blessing and a curse. His one-hour TV Ontario (TVO) documentary beads its eyes upon the environmental pestilence of gum and has given me even more reasons to justify my hatred towards it.

Appearing in the movie himself, Nisker shanghais us aboard his Conradian tugboat for a country-hopping journey into a veritable Heart of Darkness. Nisker is Willard. Gum is Colonel Walter E. Kurtz.

What Nisker discovers is an environmental Apocalypse!


What we learn, as Nisker himself learns, is that gum is one of the biggest environmental blights upon the planet. In days of yore, gum was derived naturally from a weird-ass tree in the jungles that once teemed with the Mayan Aztecs. However, when the natural source of gum started to dry up, almost to the point of extinction, gum manufacturers had to find a new sticky source to inject with oodles of sugar and surround with flavoured, crunchy candy. And what, pray tell, did those pesky corporate piggies come up with? Well, hold onto your hats, folks.

Gum is made of plastic!

Yes, plastic. And where, oh where, does most gum end up? You guessed it. On sidewalks. Now, if it just stayed there, accumulating like some toxic, viscous gunk on the pavement, ever accumulating until. . . what? Mounds of sticky filth - impeding byways and highways? Nope. That's no good. And get this: there isn't a city that doesn't spend enough money to feed the world's starving populations several times over for several millennia to clean gum off the streets. Where does it all go? Into the water. Yup, tons and tons and tons of plastic are steamed off the streets and into the sewers and back into the water. From gum. Your gum, Clarabelle Cow. And this is not much good for any living thing.

Gum chewers are chewing plastic (cancer) infused with sugar (diabetes) or sugar-free chemicals like Aspartame (dementia), then they're spitting it up onto the ground whereupon it's "cleaned" up, right back into the environment.

This, frankly, is appalling enough, but Nisker doesn't stop there. Nay, he takes us deep into the heart of gum's darkness and we learn more about it in one hour than one would think was humanly impossible. We discover fossilized gum, we travel to various manufacturers of gum and we even get a couple of tastes of "greener" gum options. It still adds up to the same thing - waste and pollution.

Nisker even seeks to test out the scientific and medical claims made by gum manufacturers. A few of these tests are downright illuminating. Not surprisingly, we learn there is no truth to the ludicrous claims, but worse yet, we learn that many of the claims are so outrageous that they seriously affect those who buy into it and subsequently use it upon our children.

Ultimately, Nisker's film is so exhaustive, he might well have just called it Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Gum But Were Too Ignorant To Ask. We get the history of gum, its sociological and culture impact and most of all, the damage it's doing to ourselves and our planet.

All of this is presented in a breezy, clever and entertainingly digestible fashion. (Except, for me, during closeups of people chewing the wretched stuff and the clever digitally animated ooze of gum that floods the streets and even chases Nisker at one point like a river of molten lava, is hardly the stuff of intestinal comfort. I can feel the mounting need to expunge like some character in Sam Shepard's La Turista, the desire to engage in the dreaded Aztec two-step.)

For me, though, his movie makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I haven't been a madman for all these years. I now have an Encyclopedia Britannica worth of reasons to detest gum even more. And now, I even dream about gum and in my dreams I see a glob of gum crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream; that's my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor... and ending up into the eco-system, the food chain and into my mouth - to ingest the cud-chewings of plastic, spat out upon the sidewalks of the world.

It's enough to make you sick.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-half Stars

The Dark Side of the Chew is the Closing Night Gala of the 2014 Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival in Toronto. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.