The Beautiful Truth

An oddly old-fashioned docu, as perhaps befits its advocacy of a cancer cure advanced some 60 years ago, "The Beautiful Truth" presents itself as a home-schooling assignment for producer-director Steve Kroschel's 15-year-old son, Garrett, alternately referred to as "the boy" and "the lad" in the filmmaker's earnest, soft-spoken narration.

With: Garrett Kroschel, Charlotte Gerson, David Kennedy, John Olney, Hal Huggins, Jay Kordich, Russell Blaylock, Wallace Sampson.

An oddly old-fashioned docu, as perhaps befits its advocacy of a cancer cure advanced some 60 years ago, “The Beautiful Truth” presents itself as a home-schooling assignment for producer-director Steve Kroschel’s 15-year-old son, Garrett, alternately referred to as “the boy” and “the lad” in the filmmaker’s earnest, soft-spoken narration. The younger Kroschel leaves his Alaska home to discover the efficacy of Dr. Max Gerson’s dietary cure for cancer (and a host of other illnesses) and to find out why it has been summarily dismissed by the medical establishment. Quaintly framed expose is courting controversy around its Nov. 14 Gotham bow.

Garrett Kroschel’s quest includes research into all the nefarious ways in which the billion-dollar medical/agricultural/pharmaceutical complex, with the full complicity of the American Medical Assn., creates dependencies on costly but ineffective treatments while additives adulterate America’s food and water supplies. An impressive array of dissenting doctors, Nobel scientists and former government officials deplore the lack of meaningful FDA regulation and the active suppression of all non-patentable medications and therapies.

They also decry accepted practices from water fluoridation and genetic food engineering to the use of mercury in tooth fillings (the toxicity of the latter proved by a “Mr. Wizard”-type demonstration eagerly recorded on camera).

At the same time, accounts of cures via the Gerson method abound, from quoted testimonials by Albert Schweitzer, who attributed his own miraculous cure to Gerson therapy, to contemporary interviews with cancer survivors across the country. A stopover at the nonprofit Gerson Institute in San Diego, Calif., run by the doctor’s daughter, Charlotte, elicits careful itemization of the therapy’s steps (illustrated by crude, on-the-spot drawings by Garrett Kroschel, tactfully eliding the details of the regimen’s requisite “coffee enemas”).

While docu’s claims and criticism yield nothing especially new, the form of their exposition seems singularly ingenuous, stylistically falling somewhere between a 1950s educational film and some sort of Norman Rockwellian infomercial, replete with folksy interviewees such as Gerson-cured juicer manufacturer Jay Kordich. The final scenes chronicle the boy’s return to Alaska, the townfolk all agog to hear more about the Gerson miracle diet and soon thereafter eagerly swigging fresh-squeezed carrots and apples.

Tech credits complement pic’s old-timey feel. Helmer Kroschel, whose numerous nature films and occasional family-friendly fiction features revel in spectacular snowscapes, makes the most of shots of his son tending an orphaned moose and bush-plane flights over Alaska.

The Beautiful Truth

Production: A Cinema Libre release of a Kroschel Films production. Produced by Steve Kroschel. Executive producer, William Bacon III. Directed, written by Steve Kroschel.

Crew: Camera (color), William Bacon III, Mario Benassi; editor, Carey Komadina; music, Francesca Dego, Francesca Leonardi; sound, John Bierot, Russell Cadsky; associate producer, Mario Benassi. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Nov. 6, 2008. Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Garrett Kroschel, Charlotte Gerson, David Kennedy, John Olney, Hal Huggins, Jay Kordich, Russell Blaylock, Wallace Sampson.

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