New documentary asks “Got the facts on Milk?”
Last week saw the release of a brand new documentary called “Got the Facts on Milk?” which asks Americans to question the deep-rooted beliefs in the health benefits of milk. So we asked the filmmaker, Shira Lane, whose own diary allergy prompted her to research the subject, why she made the film and how she ended up behind the lens of a camera to document her journey. “Got the Facts on Milk?” premiered in Los Angeles last month to a sold-out crowd and has already won several film festival awards, including the audience award at the 2008 Rhode Island International Film Festival. The film, produced by Unleashed Productions in association with LeTo Entertainment LLC, has outraged filmgoers around the world. It sparked a riot at the South Korea Green Film Festival, shocked the audience at DocAviv Documentary Film Festival in Israel, and traumatized attendees of the EcoCinema Environmental Film Festival. “Got the Facts on Milk?” is available now on DVD. www.milkdocumentary.com
By Shira Lane
We have been told by the dairy industry that it does our body good, but medical research is surfacing that shows cow’s milk is not as good as we have perceived. Few foods are as fraught with high-stakes political, economic, ethical and environmental considerations.
As a child in Israel I suffered from severe asthmatic bronchitis. A friend of a friend suggested to my mother that I should avoid dairy products, and once I did, voilà, all my medication went out the window. However, my first few years here in the States were quite difficult. My allergic reactions seemed to constantly reoccur, even though I was certain I was avoiding dairy. Only later did I discover the more prevalent use of milk and dairy by-products in American foods, and the numerous scientific names for dairy ingredients. I learned that I couldn’t eat 70 to 85 percent of most packaged foods found in American grocery stores, nor could I eat safely in most restaurants. I also began to notice the quantity of ads put out by the dairy industry and the methods they use to sell their products, including their campaigns in American schools.
While researching the subject in medical journals, I read study after study linking dairy to cancer, osteoporosis, weight gain, asthma, acne, hormonal problems, early menstruation, and more. My passion intensified as I read about the devastating effect of dairies on the environment; the dire straits of today’s farmers; and the preponderance of lactose intolerance, especially in African Americans and Native Americans. I uncovered so much information about milk that it overwhelmed me. But the more I learned, the deeper into the rabbit hole I went, and the more questions I had.
So like any filmmaker, I dropped everything and decided to get answers, and make them available to the public. I assembled a small crew – camera operator, sound operator, and assistant – and set out on a road trip to Washington D.C. to the US Department of Agriculture's Nutrition Information Center for the facts. On my month-long, 4600-mile journey through the American Southwest and Bible Belt, I met with top doctors and researchers, dietitians, dairy farmers, parents, teachers, and plenty of "ordinary Americans" – such as waitresses, a martial artist, a crepe chef, historical re-enactors and a train robber – who served up food for thought as well as comic relief. The result is “Got the facts on Milk?”, a wildly entertaining, partly animated examination of the deep-rooted American belief in the health benefits of milk. The film gives a voice to researchers, studies and scientists who reveal the untold truth behind dairy health studies.
I would have wanted my parents to watch this film when I was growing up, and I hope this information helps others the way it has immensely helped me.
Shira Lane is writer/director/producer of “Got the facts on Milk?”, available on DVD and on-demand at http://www.milkdocumentary.com. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog Bobby, her partner Luke, and their baby son Ori.