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Don't Wait to See "Waiting for My Real Life"
April 7, 2009 - Betsy Bethel
My friend April and I went to see "Waiting for My Real Life" at Carmike Cinemas in St. Clairsville last night. It was the second showing of the documentary about America's obesity epidemic that features the story of a young Martins Ferry man, Jeremy Norman, who died in 2007. Jason Pyles's article on the film appeared on page 1 of the Sunday News-Register two days ago.
The film was thought-provoking, disturbing, poignant. The turnout was disappointing; the audience numbered six.
Considering the weight problems we suffer right here in the Ohio Valley, everyone should see this film. West Virginia is the fattest state in the country. Nationwide, the number of obese children has tripled. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of today's children will be diagnosed with diabetes if this trend continues.
The filmmakers, Canadian Michael Harrison and his son, Jonathan, found Jeremy on YouTube and spent three days in the Ohio Valley filming him. They interviewed him, his parents, his wife, Roberta and his home nurse. Footage includes numerous shots of Ohio Valley Plaza, plus Intertstate 70, the Oglebay Festival of Lights and the Wheeling Tunnel. Footage shot by Roberta includes Jeremy before and after gastric bypass surgery at Ohio State University Medical Center. Home movies and other video show Jeremy as a child and teen, and Jeremy and Roberta's wedding day.
In addition to Jeremy's story, the filmmakers interview three women who were formerly obese, each of whom overcame their food addictions in different ways. One uses an alternative therapy; one joined Overeaters Anonymous; and one had gastric bypass surgery. All three detail their struggles with food, weight gain and weight loss, and many of their comments resonated with April and me.
The third component of the film is Harrison's interviews with Washington, D.C. lobbyists on both sides of what has become the food war. There are those who say restaurants should disclose the ingredients and nutrition information on their menus, and that government should take a more active role in protecting Americans from unscrupulous business practices that prey on people's food addictions. And then there are those who say Americans do not want "Big Brother" slapping the cheeseburger out of our hands. April and I decided we could see both sides of the argument.
Michael Harrison is filmed throughout the documentary playing "phone tag" with the vice president of public relations for The Sugar Association. At the end of the film, she tells him the group "respectfully declines to comment" for the documentary. Harrison is incredulous. April (a former reporter now in P.R.) and I were not a bit surprised.
I have struggled with weight and food issues my entire life. I do not want my daughter to follow my footsteps. Every parent should see this film. Everyone who's ever struggled with their weight should see this film. Everyone in the Ohio Valley should see this film — if for no other reason, go to see your community featured on the big screen, a rare opportunity indeed. It will be shown at 4 and 7:15 p.m. through Thursday. Admission is only $5.
P.S. The 35-minute short film before it is titled "Lonely Stag" and is an odd and at times laughable story about Irish expatriates. Endure it for the beautiful images of Bantry Bay; or skip it and arrive a half-hour after starting time.
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Jeremy Norman of Martins Ferry is the central figure of the documentary "Waiting for My Real Life," showing at Carmike Cinemas in St. Clairsville through Thursday.