McPain in the neck
Morgan Spurlock brings his anti-McDonald's
message to Japan
By Chris Betros
When Morgan Spurlock was in Japan recently, everyone kept
asking him if he had been to a Japanese McDonald's.
"Why would I ever set foot inside a McDonald's
in a foreign country?" asked the 34-year-old director
of the hit documentary Super Size Me, in which he eats nothing
but McDonald's for 30 days and sees his health deteriorate
as a result. "When Americans travel, we want everything
to be just like home. Starbucks, McDonald's, KFC. When
I leave America, that's the last thing I want to see.
The problem is, that way of thinking is starting to take root
in other cultures and pushing out indigenous traditional food.
Everyone is buying into this 'McDonaldization'
Looking none the worse from his experiment, Spurlock said
the only Western-style fast food he had during his visit here
was a rice burger at Mos Burger, which he thought was great.
"Some Japanese journalists told me: 'We have
such better eating habits here. We don't eat that type
of food.' Wow, I can't understand how come there
are 8,000 Japanese packed into the McDonald's downstairs.
Who are all those people?"
Spurlock's documentary, which won him the best director's
prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year, has turned
him into a crusader against the fast food industry. He has
received hate mail, while many websites have sprung up debunking
some of the facts, figures and conclusions in the film. "I
just wanted to empower people to think about eating better
and exercising more," he pointed out. "I picked
McDonald's because they are iconic and the industry
Super Size Me also focuses on schools. "I was shocked
to see what we are feeding kids in schools. Pizza, candy,
ice cream, soda, French fries, hamburgers, cookies, hot dogs,"
he said. "We need to get the crap out of the schools.
Every high school and college should have cooking lessons.
Kids should cook a meal every day."
Spurlock was also amused that no Japanese TV or radio station
wanted to interview him. "It's the same in every
country I have visited. They don't want to lose their
advertising. Here's a corporation that sells burgers
and fries that now has the ability to control the media. That's
frightening." It's also one reason, he believes,
why documentaries are enjoying renewed popularity. "Documentaries
are one of the last bastions of free speech," he says.
Spurlock has already started his next project for cable TV.
"We took a Christian from West Virginia, very pro-war,
with an 'us-or-them' mentality, and moved him
to Dearborn, Michigan, which has the largest Muslim population
in the US so he could learn what it is like to be considered
a threat. He moved in with a Muslim family and lived, dressed,
ate and prayed five times a day, went to the mosque, worked
with a cleric. The transformation is remarkable."
Photo credit: Chris Betros
ACHILLES JAPAN YOYOGI PARK RUN
A PARALYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST TEAMS UP WITH STANDARD CHARTERED
TO TEACH TOKYO KIDS ABOUT BLIND RUNNING CHAMPIONS
|Clockwise from top left:
two-time Athens Olympic gold medalist Henry Wanyoike;
Kenyan Ambassador Dennis Awori (left) speaking to the
runners; Wanyoike with Standard Chartered Bank CEO Mark
Devadason; students from Nishimachi International School;
Wanyoike with his running guide, Joseph Kibunja
Kazuyuki Takagi, president of Achilles Track Club Japan,
and Mark Devadason, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Japan,
speak about ATCJ, a nonprofit organization where the able-bodied
and the physically impaired get together. Through its association
with Seeing is Believing, Standard Chartered Banks major
global community fundraising project, ATCJ has raised US$14
million, enough to give more than 56,000 people their sight
How did you get involved in ATCJ?
KT: I lost sight in both my eyes about ten years ago and I
started rehab in 1995. Thats when the doctor there told
me about ATCJ. At first, my disability was severe, so I slowly
started out walking and gradually began running. Because I
lost my sight at a pretty late age, I was quite depressed
about it, but through the warmth of the people around me,
I was able to get through with my rehabilitation exercises.
I thought that I should do something to give back to the community
We currently meet and train together at least twice a month
in Yoyogi Park.
How about Seeing is Believing?
MD: Standard Chartered Bank, through sponsoring Seeing is
Believing, is leading the way in taking the first steps towards
combating curable blindness around the world. Did you know
that many of the blind can be treated for a mere $25? Knowing
this, you see how important it is to address sight problems.
Our first initiative was to raise enough funds to restore
sight to one million people by the end of 2006. Eighty percent
of the estimated 45 million blind people around the world
can be cured with simple surgery.
Whats Henry Wanyoikes role?
MD: He is Seeing is Believings goodwill ambassador,
and he is on an Asian tour with his running guide and lifelong
friend, Joseph Kibunja. He also ran a 5K fundraising race
with the Nishi Machi International Schools cross-country
team, in which the students ran as guides for visually-impaired
runners from ATCJ. The Ambassador of Kenya was there, and
[the athletes] treated the kids to a brief workshop on how
to be a good running guide. ww003.upp.so-net.ne.jp/achilles/index.htm;
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