About the Film

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About the Film




How did the food industry get us to stop asking the question: is sugar toxic?  


It all starts with a secret PR campaign dating back to the 1970s. For forty years, Big Sugar deflected all threats to its multi-billion dollar empire, while sweetening the world’s food supply. As obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates skyrocket, doctors are now treating the first generation of children suffering from fatty liver disease.  The sugar industry is once again under siege. They dodged the bullet once. Can they do it again?

Today, industry is deploying its old tactics and pulling out the old adage “we just eat too damn much.” This time consumers aren’t buying it. The critics have gotten smarter, bolder, and madder and science is catching up.

Pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Robert Lustig thinks we’ve all been ‘frucked’ by industry. He’s evangelical, blaming sugar for a waiting room filled with obese kids with fatty livers. His flock of five million online followers grows daily. In the court of public opinion, he’s part of a leading group of experts who are putting sugar on trial.


But Japan’s not waiting for the verdict. For the first time in history, their children are burdened with lifestyle diseases that their parents never faced. To counter a health crisis that could sink their economy, Japan’s introduced a radical new law that takes aim at another ‘bottom line’: the girth of the nation’s waistlines.

Pulling back the curtain on the sugar-coated tactics of an industry once again under attack, this documentary will give you a chilling feeling of déjà vu. Today the industry is back sweetening the message. But this time, history comes knocking.

When the doors closed at the Great Western Sugar Company in Colorado in 1976, someone forgot to sweep the floor. Gathering dust in the archives were 1500 pages of internal documents exposing how the Sugar Industry used Tobacco-style tactics to dismiss troubling health claims against their products. Denver dentist turned postdoctoral scholar at the UCSF School of Medicine, Cristin Kearns, knew she’d stumbled on something big: the industry’s secret playbook. Her mentor, Stan Glantz, the superstar professor from San Francisco who brought down Big Tobacco warns, it’s going to get dirty.

While industry and science duke it out, are we sitting on a dietary time bomb?

The feature is now streaming on Netflix in North America.


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Creative Personnel

Michèle Hozer


Sugar Poison: Chocolate

With two films on the Oscar shortlist, Emmy-nomination and Gemini-winning Michèle Hozer has been working as a filmmaker and editor in Canada since 1987. To date, she has worked on more than 50 documentaries. Her work has received accolades from the most prestigious film festivals in the world, including the Sundance Film Festival and the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. Shake Hands with The Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire won both the 2007 Emmy for Best Documentary and the Audience Award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

Promise to the Dead picked up her first International Emmy nomination as an editor. But her directorial debut with Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould won the coveted spot on the Academy Award short list as well as a Gemini for Best Biography. Since its premiere at TIFF in 2009, that feature-length documentary has been seen by audiences in Britain, Australia, Japan, and across North America. 

In 2012, The Director’s Guild of Canada (DGC) awarded The Allan King Award for Excellence in Documentary to Michèle and team for West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson. At the same time, she picked up both the Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival Editing Award and top honours from her peers at Canadian Cinema Editors. 

Sugar Coated is Michèle's first solo feature-length documentary in the combined roles of director, editor, and producer, probing the role of sugar in a global healthcare epidemic. The film, in association with TVO and ZDF/ARTE, is set to reach international audiences in 2015.

Janice Dawe

Executive Producer

Sugar poison:  Ice cream

Janice Dawe has built a reputation as a trusted producer who provides business guidance and support to creative-minded filmmakers.  She has 25 years of hands-on expertise producing documentaries, dramas and digital media projects for broadcast and distribution around the world.

Janice’s Executive Producer credits include the award-winning Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children exploring the dilemma of child soldiers, and The Experimental Eskimos which chronicles a Canadian social experiment gone wrong.  She also pioneered digital media documentary storytelling with the Gemini-nominated City Sonic mobile application released just as the iPhone 3 came to market.  As head of production at White Pine Pictures, Janice oversaw such Oscar shortlisted documentaries as Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould and A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman.

Janice began working with Michèle Hozer on Sugar Coated in late 2012 when TVO expressed interest in the documentary.  She worked closely with Michèle and Associate Producer, Nathalie Bibeau, to finance and create an important and definitive documentary, as well as an exciting iPhone app that will contribute to building Canada’s first “free sugar” database. 

Nathalie Bibeau

Associate Producer/Digital Media Producer

Sugar Poison: Anything maple

With 13 years in the industry, Nathalie Bibeau has traveled the world in service of award-winning documentaries.  A story lover from the start, she found a mentor at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who brought her into the fold of the groundbreaking series, Canada: A People’s History. During her career at the in-house production unit of the CBC, she went on to produce acclaimed series such as 8th Fire, nominated for the Canadian Screen Awards, and Africa on the Move, which won the Gemini for Best Documentary Series in 2011.

Her work as a producer and director has taken her everywhere from the sub-Arctic to Angola and the swamps of Louisiana. She has written for the Globe and Mail, hosted the Peter Gerretsen Awards at Ryerson University, and volunteered for War Child in Ethiopia. She holds a B.A. from McGill University and an M.A. in Russian History from the University of Toronto - and she’s fluent in Swedish, of all things.

Michèle Hozer and Janice Dawe brought Nathalie onto Sugar Coated after signing a development deal with TVO, and she has worked closely with them on all aspects of the project for the last 2 years. Most notably, she secured financing for the Sugar Coated digital media project, including an immersive web experience and a mobile app to become Canada's first tracker of "free sugar".

This is her first production outside of CBC.

Russell Walker


Russ started his road to a career in music studying guitar and classical flute in the early 70’s. He worked as a recording engineer in the late 70’s, making records for bands, and gradually started doing audio post for video. Russ also played keyboards in several bands including New Regime, who were signed to RCA Records in the 1980’s.

Russ also studied harmony and composition at the Royal Conservatory from 1999-2001.

From 1994 to 2014 he owned and operated Kitchen Sync Digital Audio, specializing in mixing documentary films. His facility was one of the first in Canada to go completely tapeless. Russ has worked as sound supervisor or sound editor on many award-winning documentary films and drama series including Cracked, The Border, Shake Hands With the Devil, Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, Turning Points in History, The Nature of Things. He has also composed music for many television shows, including The Famine Within, Hitman Hart and Outlaw Bikers.

Most recently he wrote the music for Sugar Coated which is opening to sold out screens at Hot Docs 2015.

Roxana Spicer


Sugar Poison: Dark chocolate mousse

Television journalist and veteran producer/director, Roxana Spicer, began her career at the CBC, working all major prime-time network information programs, including the fifth estate, Marketplace, the Journal, and The Nature of Things, logging 200 hours of credited directing. One of CBC’s pioneer videographers, she also filmed investigative stories in Moscow, Munich, Belfast, and Havana.

As a freelance filmmaker, her work has won major awards at the New York Film Festival (Bronze World medal for Best Social Documentary 2014), the Columbus International Film Festival, and in 2013, at the Canadian News and Current Affairs Awards (RTNDA’s), two of her short form documentaries won Best Information program and Best Long Feature.

Last season, she wrote and directed the highest rated one-hour special for Global TV’s flagship current affairs series about dementia, Unspooling the Mind.

Her personal POV feature length documentary, The Traitor’s Daughter is currently in development. She is also a regular collaborator with the Cutting Factory, as a writer for Sugar Coated.

Nick Sewell

Design and Animation

Sugar Poison: Ice cream

Nick Sewell is a Toronto-based designer and creative director. Working in broadcast design since 1999, Nick has created work for clients including MTV, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Sports Center, PBS, and CTV.

His film work includes title design for David Cronenberg’s Spider, Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy, William Shatner’s The Captains and Fight Like Soliders, Die Like Children.

His work has appeared in numerous graphics and post-production publications such as Stash, Design In Motion, Applied Arts Annual, M21 and Boards magazine. His work has also earned acclaim internationally, including over 16 Broadcast Design Awards.

Hector Herrara

Design and Animation

Sugar Poison: Pulparindo

With over 12 years experience in broadcast design, Hector has created work for a diverse range of clients that include Cartoon Network, SpikeTV, BBC, CTV and David Cronenberg, as well as advertising agencies such as JWT, Ogilvy and FCB. His work has been showcased in several design publications such as Stash, Design In Motion, Applied Arts and Boards magazine and has garnered several BDA gold, silver and bronze awards.

Hector is also an instructor in the Illustration program at the Ontario College Of Art and Design where he teaches digital mixed media illustration techniques and Illustrated Activism.  He also teaches and developed the syllabus for the new Animated Illustration course.

Nava Rastegar

Production Manager

Sugar Poison: Portuguese custard tarts

Nava Rastegar began her career in media production through CMPA’s Screen Based Media Production Program. Under the mentorship of Janice Dawe and Michèle Hozer, Nava took on both a business affairs and production management role at The Cutting Factory in 2013. Since, she has managed successful funding applications for film, television, and transmedia projects, as well as managing the production of Sugar Coated.

Prior to her career in media production, Nava held positions at TIFF and HotDocs. She also holds a B.A in History and Art as well an M.A in German History at the University of Toronto. Nava is constantly undertaking new challenges by assisting independent producers on their projects to achieve creative and commercial success.

Darby MacInnis

Assistant Editor

Darby’s narrative work as a film editor has been celebrated internationally at film festivals worldwide as well as in his native Toronto at the Toronto International Film Festival, Reel Asian International Film Festival and the Canadian Film Centre’s Worldwide Short Film Festival. Notable film credits include Secret Trial 5 (2014), Banana Bruises (2007), Soap (2009) and Miklat (2013).

In the documentary sphere, Darby developed his craft working under one of Canada’s finest documentary film director/editors, Michèle Hozer. It was during these years that Darby refined his philosophical approach to post-production while learning the meticulous inner workings of the entire post-production process, working on some of Canada’s most widely distributed and recognized documentary films, such as Triage (2008), the Glenn Gould biography The Genius Within (2009), The Team (2010), The West Wind (2011) and Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children (2013), all produced by the award-winning production company White Pine Pictures.