Should we be pro fat-acceptance or anti fat-acceptance? In this highly politicized landscape its hard to make up ones mind on the matter. Luckily, for me, I came across this filmmaker named Connor Luke Simpson who had decided to tackle this very question. His film is called Fat-topia and in my fit of random curiosity I got drawn in. So I reached out to him for an interview to which I was very fortunate to have him accept. Check out the Fat-topia documentary trailer here>>>
So here is my interview with the documentary filmmaker Connor Luke about his recent Fat-Topia documentary about fat-acceptance. The film is set to be released on August 9 on Amazon….
Why did you decide to be a documentary filmmaker?
With streaming, documentary film has developed this “direct to TV” appeal. Maybe it is because documentary films are serious and educational. It’s a legitimate genre but it just doesn’t make as much money as say pop-culture flicks. I’m interested in seeing how documentary film can become block-buster cinema again. I was inspired by Fahrenheit 9/11 which was a block-buster success and the highest grossing documentary of all time.
It’s funny that you bring up Michael Moore considering the typical “left” climate surrounding fat acceptance.
It’s mainly due to his ability to bring audiences in and create documentaries with a bit of personality. I feel like the blockbuster appeal of the documentary might be lost to streaming. But maybe we are also entering a golden age of documentaries with Netflix & Amazon. There ares some great streaming documentaries like; Free Solo, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, Making a Murderer etc. But can documentary become a block-buster brand again? I’d like to present my films in a way that makes that happen; entertaining yet factual.
Why did you decide to do your documentary on fat-acceptance?
It all started shortly after the Tess Holiday scandal. It was then that I started to get videos automatically recommended in my youtube feed; videos that pertained to fat-acceptance. At the time I had absolutely no idea what that was or that that even existed. I was sort of just drawn in by the social media buzz surrounding it. It’s like everything started to focus in around it.
So then did you come into this documentary with any bias or opinions on fat-acceptance?
It truly just started with the curiosity of me asking: what is this movement and what are they all about? I genuinely had no idea what it was. Then as I started making the film I began to see that they had strong philosophical beliefs surrounding this. From that, the film sort of organically began to develop (an opinion) all on its own.
So are you saying there is no political agenda in this film?
I honestly don’t think that that’s really possible. I think that every piece of art (documentary) takes on some sort of a position. regardless I didn’t want to remove that element from my film because then that would be dishonest to the audience. I honestly tried to be as open about this subject as possible.
Did you “TRIGGER” anybody when they found out you were doing the Fat-Topia documentary?
I’ve never heard that word, triggered, used un-ironically. It’s funny because they (the subjects of the documentary) seem to use it as it is actually supposed to be used. I’m not making this film in order to ‘expose’ or ‘offend’ the (fat-acceptance) movement. I just genuinely wanted to start questioning the politics that were being thrown around about it.
Can you tell us about the radical character at the end of the Fat-topia trailer who vehemently calls you a “cis-straight-white-male.”
I don’t think that this interviewee was ever there to have a conversation. I think he/she was just there to say “we do not support this.” To say somewhat: “you are wrong for even questioning fat-acceptance.” He/she was never there to have a conversation, but to have a confrontation. That is why it was conducted that way. I would describe that interviewee as a radical.
But you interviewed people who were anti fat-acceptance anyway?
The reason I wanted to interview people who were “anti-fat” was to document the movement and show people on both sides.
So in your opinion is this a cultural issue or is this a political issue?
That’s hard to answer. Because, I don’t want to speak for them, I can only speak on what I’ve learned. I guess, for me, it does seem like they’re taking a lot of the language as what I’d describe as alt-left, post-modern language and themes. Now, like I’ve said I spoke to people who were fat-acceptance right-wing, but most of the radicals who I engaged with seemed to be supporting the left agenda.
So after all that are you more for fat acceptance, or against it?
I think there is definitely an epidemic here that we need to talk about. We just can’t do that when people are screaming us down and saying this and this. That’s not productive because whether you are anti fat-acceptance or pro fat-acceptance there is a gross amount of people dying from this every year as a result of obesity issues. I guess for that reason I’m a little more tough with the left.
Why are you tough with them?
I guess, that if there are people dying, what use does name calling do? You are white, cis or male but now you are the enemy? What good does that do? I come at this purely as; “I’m open to speak with you about this and have a conversation”. I’m open to anything for the most part. Where I drew the line with people is when they started doxing my family & posting their information online.
Who is doing that? People that are pro-fat acceptance?
Do you think that is just a left-wing activism?
No, there has been bad things from the right as well. It doesn’t matter what side it comes from, it’s not productive regardless. If you’re going to cross the line then you’re going to look just as bad as everybody else. But for me it’s been mainly left-activism because I’m attacked for even questioning the movement. That’s been a strange thing to deal with.
Has it made you back down?
No, I think fat-acceptance is an important conversation to have.
What kind of advice do you have to film students or documentary film makers?
You’ve got to start somewhere. We live in a world with smart phones. My film doesn’t have a huge budget behind it. I spent maybe $1000 entirely of my own money and someone else could have spent even less. If you have something to say or that you want to create then create it and just put it out there “break the boundaries, be yourself & test the limits.”
There was a campaign to push up against a fat acceptance documentary. How have you dealt with that?
There is a group who are dead set against white men who are cis or straight. One of the major problems being tossed at me was just that. That I’m a slim white guy. I actually did begin to feel, a little, as if I genuinely didn’t have permission to do this film because of that fact. That I’m a slim white guy. I also was told that I didn’t have the right to do this because of the fact that I was speaking to people who were not fat acceptance. As for people who don’t like it; at least they are talking about it and keeping the dialogue going.
What were the exact factors that made you arrive at your ultimate conclusion?
I think it’s in the words: “fat acceptance.” What I find hard to understand is exactly this. If we all accepted being fat people and said it was healthy, then the question arises: is life better this way? would the death rate continue? would diabetes still skyrocket? would people begin to be more and more unhealthy?
What do you want to achieve with this film?
I want the conversation of fat acceptance to be on the table. I don’t have the answers and I don’t think anybody has the answers. I don’t think that people would be dealing with the unhealthy side effects of obesity if everything was clear. Ultimately, with this film, I want all people to arrive at their own conclusions.