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A documentary on obesity, brought to you by Big Pharma

February 3, 2010 | 11:45 am

We love a good documentary as much as the next person and were intrigued when we got a news release touting a soon-to-be-made film exploring obesity helmed by none other than respected director-writer-producer Barry Levinson, who won an Oscar for "Rain Man." The film is part of the Spotlight Initiative of the Creative Coalition, a nonprofit social and public advocacy group of the entertainment and arts community.

Ks8za4nc But our enthusiasm quickly dimmed when we saw who was funding the project: GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. Yep, the same people who make Alli, the over-the-counter weight loss drug.

Evidently we're not the only ones who think this is an eyebrow-raising pairing. TheWrap was similarly incredulous, and posted an interview with GlaxoSmithKline marketing exec Rachel Ferdinando, in which she defended the company's backing of the film.

The New York Times weighed in as well, running a story that included an interview with Creative Coalition's executive director, Robin Bronk. All parties deny that Glaxo has any intention of using the film as a marketing tool for its weight loss drug. We'll remain optimistically skeptical until the film debuts. But consider this: The news release included an "About Alli" explainer that touted the drug's benefits.

Levinson was also quoted in the release saying, "The evolution of the obesity crisis in America is a fascinating and compelling human story. It's the hidden enemy within our borders that no one talks about." Really? It's hidden? And no one's talking about it? That's news to us.

What do you think about this? Would you go see a film about the nation's obesity crisis if it were backed by Big Pharma? And if so, would you keep an open mind, or take the information with a whopping grain of salt? Let us know.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo: Barry Levinson. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times