Good Meat, a new film co-produced by Sam Hurst, captures a glimpse of the obesity epidemic faced by Native Americans today.
“Forty percent of the Oglala Lakota people are already struggling with obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” says Hurst. “This is not a marginal issue for them.”
Part of this statistic--and the star of Good Meat--is Beau LeBeau (Oglala Lakota). LeBeau is obese; members of his family are obese; his diabetic mother recently passed away from diabetes.
Good Meat, explains Hurst, “tries to tell the story of the most pressing epidemic facing Native American people today.”
LeBeau was a star basketball player in high school. “Beau is one of the greatest high school basketball players to come out of South Dakota,” says Hurst. In the film, LeBeau jogged for the first time in six years.
Good Meat follows LeBeau as he tries to correct his lifestyle through exercise and diet, in an effort to lose weight and start living healthier. A major component of his transformation comes from his adoption of the traditional Lakota diet, and a move to lean, high protein buffalo meat instead of beef.
“What this man [LeBeau] tried to do, was find his ancient diet and then try to figure out a way to incorporate it into his modern life,” explains Hurst. “It’s the story of his struggle to try to do that.”
Hurst is not new to the visual media world. He has worked extensively in the television industry and as a documentary filmmaker. “I worked in television for about 30 years,” he says. “I was a producer for some time with NBC news based in Los Angeles.”
After moving on from television, he did a Nieman Fellowship in Evolutionary Biology at Harvard. Since then, he has focused on producing documentaries “about the intersection between human environments and human cultures,” Hurst says.
“The largest project I’ve ever done was a four-hour documentary for CNN and Turner Broadcasting, titled The Coming Plague, based on Laurie Garrett’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work on the on the global health environment.”
“This [Good Meat] will probably be the last documentary I ever make,” Hurst says. Recently, he has become more involved in writing, especially for his website, dakotaday.com. Hurst’s writing reflects on similar themes that come up in Good Meat.
“I like writing, and it is the most discrete form of reporting, where you really can be a fly on the wall, and just observe,” he says. “I want to have the freedom to do what I want to do, and I find I am most likely to have that freedom as a writer, where it’s just me, a tape recorder and a note pad.”
Interviews were conducted and edited by Ben Kreimer.