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Documentary Review: ‘Eat the Sun’

June 1, 2011
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Just imagine if you had the ability to wipe out diabetes, fatigue, insomnia, hunger and all your other worldly woes right at your fingertips. What if the answer to your every ailment was free, plentiful, and resoundingly simple?

The documentary Eat the Sun takes a fascinating look at a growing segment of the population that believe that staring directly into the sun on a daily basis will bring about medicinal benefits. Faithful advocates of the practice swear that they have enjoyed a myriad of benefits, ranging from lack of hunger to complete resolution of diabetes. It sounds ludicrous, but the film’s primary focus is placed on one time Olympic hopeful Mason Dwinell, who appears sincere and earnest in his quest for the truth about the ancient practice.

Dwinell heard about sungazing while in college, and started pursuing the practice. A former ski-jumper, Dwinell has a rugged outdoor demeanor and disheveled appearance of a hippie. It’s easy to imagine him wanting to connect with nature and the outdoors, and he does so at the cost of friends and family who shun his new found hobby. Over the course of several months, Dwinell claims to feel stronger, and insists that his hunger has vanished. But what is the point of these benefits when you have lost your closest relationships?  It’s a bit of a conundrum for Mason, so he opts to seek out others across the country who share his interest. They are surprisingly normal people; husbands, doctors, lawyers, and other accomplished professionals.

Disciples of the practice start out gazing at the sun for small increments of time, and add 10 seconds a day until they have reached the magical quantity of 44 minutes. It’s pretty interesting stuff, but there are some holes in the theory that sungazing is the end all cure to what ails you.

Mason Dwinell, one of the subjects of the documentary Eat the Sun

Despite the fact that proponents believe that you can derive physical and spiritual benefits if you are irradiated with the sun’s rays, there is no doubt that you can do permanent harm to your retinas. Director Peter Sorcher provides testimonials from several physicians and opthalmologists attesting to the danger of the practice. There’s also no way to collect quantitative data on the practice, so benefits are almost impossible to prove.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the foremost guru in the movement (an elderly Indian man named HRM) is rather shady. Is he a false prophet or a true medical anomaly? He purports that he has no need to eat or exercise and that derives all his energy from the sun, even going so far to claim that he hasn’t consumed solid food for nine years.  Sorcher spends part of the film on a covert mission to catch HRM eating.

The film’s pace is lively, with Mason’s journey interspersed with interviews and personal testimonies. You have to draw your own conclusions about the validity of the practice, but as for me, I ‘ll stick with the sunglasses. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy this look at a controversial practice. Good documentaries always find unexpected and quirky subject matter.

Rating 3.5/5

Eat the Sun will debut on the Documentary Channel June 21st at 8pm.  It is currently available on DVD.

 

 

 

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