After interviewing food historians, scholars, cooks, doctors, activists and consumers for his new film “Soul Food Junkies,” filmmaker Byron Hurt concluded that an addiction to soul food is killing African-Americans at an alarming rate.
The movie, which will premiere on January 14 on U.S. public broadcasting television, examines how black cultural identity is linked to high-calorie, high-fat food such as fried chicken and barbecued ribs and how eating habits may be changing.
In the deeply personal film, Hurt details his father’s fight and eventual death from pancreatic cancer. A high-fat diet is a risk factor for the illness, according to researchers at Duke University in North Carolina.
“I never questioned what we ate or how much,” 42-year-old New Jersey-based Hurt says in the film that travels from New Jersey and New York to Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Chicago.
“My father went from being young and fit to twice his size.”
Hurt, who also made “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” decided to examine the link between calorie-loaded soul food and illnesses among blacks after his father was diagnosed in 2006.
He delves into his family history, as well as slavery, the African diaspora and the black power movement in the film and provides photographs, drawings, historic film footage and maps.
In Jackson, Mississippi, Hurt joined football fans for ribs and corn cooked with pigs’ feet and turkey necks. He also visited Peaches Restaurant, founded in 1961, where freedom riders and civil rights activists including Martin Luther King Jr. ate.
Hurt, whose family came from Milledgeville, Georgia, grew up on a diet of fried chicken, pork chops, macaroni and cheese, potatoes and gravy, barbecued ribs, sweet potato pie, collard greens, ham hocks and black-eyed peas…
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