I was recently given the opportunity to watch a pre-release copy of CJ Hunt’s long-awaited documentary, “In Search of the Perfect Human Diet.” Honored and delighted, I accepted. This is a big film, guys. I wouldn’t expect to see it on any Oscar lists or anything, but it’s big nonetheless. You may have heard of it already. Robb Wolf’s been championing the cause since way back in 2010, when CJ was trying to raise funds for production. Erwan Le Corre drummed up some support, too. I gave the trailer’s release some Weekend Link Love last year, and now, on the eve of its release, I’m reviewing the film. I couldn’t be more excited.
This film was a labor of love on the part of CJ. It kinda had to be, since its premise isn’t blockbuster material. It doesn’t tug at heartstrings, nor does it present a harrowing, gripping narrative full of conflicts and conflict resolutions that rival the best feature films. No, “In Search of the Perfect Human Diet” is exactly what it sounds like: the chronicling of one man’s quest to figure out what humans should be eating. It’s not a sexy premise that sponsors would fall all over themselves to get in on. It’s not selling anything (but the film itself). It’s not even promoting any particular paleo or Primal eating book. It appears, on its surface, to be a niche title, with a limited audience, but consider the subject matter. It’s about you, me, your friends, that guy across the street whose name you don’t even know, billions of strangers scattered across the globe, and billions more scattered across time. In short, this movie is about humans, about real people, and the diet we evolved eating. That sounds like a massive target demographic to me. But because the ancestral health community, while growing, is still relatively small, the film had to funded almost entirely by donations from individual humans who love this way of life and believe in it, have garnered benefits from it, and who want it available on a larger, different stage for all to see. If you were among the donators, I thank you, because you made this very important documentary possible.
That said, let’s talk a bit about the contents of the film and why I liked it so much.
First, CJ Hunt is a natural in front of the camera. He has over twenty years of experience in broadcasting, voice-overs, and television, and it definitely shows. The guy has a smooth voice and just comes across really well. No sign of loincloths, spears, scraggly beards (although I have no doubt he could pull one off), or toe shoes that might scare off Grandma.
Second, it tells a great story that should be pretty familiar to most of you. CJ was a seemingly healthy, lean 23-year old doing the right exercises and eating the right food when he had a heart attack. A full cardiac arrest – while jogging, no less. Now, this was due to a birth defect, not a poor lifestyle, but it made him think about health in a different way. He resolved to find the “perfect diet,” if such a thing existed at all. It’s what many of us have gone through, whether personally or vicariously: a catastrophic health event strikes, early in life when everything is supposed to be all peaches and roses; bouncing from diet to diet in his search for absolute dietary truth (complete with forays into veganism and raw foodism), never really finding it; discovering a promising lead on yet another dietary path; following that one, bumping into Paleolithic anthropology, and everything just clicking. Is that your story? It’s mine.
Third, although CJ’s been eating this way for over five years now, he doesn’t assume that the viewer knows what’s going on. He doesn’t gear this movie to you, the faithful Mark’s Daily Apple reader. He aims it directly at those who actually need the help most, as well as the skeptics who think the ancestral lifestyle is nonsense, a “just-so” story steeped in the naturalistic fallacy with zero evidence in its favor. All those common complaints and “debunkings” get smashed to pieces. Best of all, the film’s science is extremely approachable, made all the more so thanks to CJ. When an expert on neanderthal and early human genetics at the Max Planck Institute throws around talk about isotopic dietary analyses that might confuse some folks, CJ asks the right questions to get at the real-world dietary implications of these findings. So instead of jumping out with standard Primal eating prescriptions or suggestions from the start, the film is a gradual exploration of human evolution, including the dietary pressures that shaped and informed that evolution. The diet arises organically out of the scientific groundwork. CJ makes no prescriptions, instead letting the evidence and the experts speak for themselves.
The most moving scenes take place at the dig site and with the Max Planck geneticist. I talk about this stuff all the time, and I and many others write about how meat eating shaped our evolution, but there’s always a sense of distance and abstraction. Links to journal articles are helpful and all, but there’s really nothing like seeing the dig site with the layers of animal bones and tools, hearing the anthropologist with dirty knees from kneeling in the ancient, ancient earth say that the diet of the humans who lived there was “primarily reindeer,” or listening to Prof. Michael Richards discuss how his team has yet to find evidence of a vegan human via isotope analysis. These are the people who actually do the hard labor, write the papers, and run tests talking directly about the implications of their work. Rather than me or Robb or whoever else writing blogs or books about our interpretations of the work, the people who produce the work are stepping out from academia and giving their honest summation of the evidence for ancestral eating. If they’re coming to similar conclusions as us, that’s huge.
Professor Loren Cordain has a great scene where he uses a football field to illustrate just how far we’ve come as a species, how long we were eating wild plants and animals exclusively, and how recently – in the big picture – our lifestyles have drastically changed. It’s a great visual that will resonate with a lot of people.
Overall, “In Search of the Perfect Human Diet” presents a great introduction to and justification for ancestral eating. It’s hard to get someone to read a book or even check out a blog, but if they can sit reasonably still for an hour and a half while an entertaining, engaging movie plays, they’ll get the general idea behind this stuff and want to learn more. It presents a compelling case for the evolutionary foundation of the diet we prescribe.
The movie has been made and released to DVD, but the battle doesn’t stop there. The more copies they sell and the more people watch it, the larger our community will grow. If you want to support a great movie, a great cause, and (in my opinion) the answer to the obesity epidemic that’s showing no signs of reversing, pick up a copy of “In Search of the Perfect Human Diet.” Copies begin shipping tomorrow.
Let’s see how big we can make this! It’s important, guys, real important!