Generation Gluten-Free is a documentary directed by Susan Cohen about celiac disease and how much gluten free food manufacturers and gluten free restaurants have improved the quality of life of people who must adhere to a lifelong gluten free diet. It is a great film to give to anyone who wants more insight about celiac disease and the struggles that people with celiac face. It is also a terrific DVD to give to restaurant owners who might be interested in providing gluten free food, but who don't have much knowledge about celiac. And the reasonable price of $4.50 makes it possible to give Generation-Gluten-Free away.
It is not a riveting, edge of your seat documentary. It is a quiet, thoughtful film about people who have celiac and how, in many instances, a diagnosis of celiac has shifted their lives and caused them to create products, organizations and companies that make life easier for people with celiac. Instead of ruining their lives, often a diagnosis has infused their lives with a passion and meaning that has enriched it tremendously. Hearing people's stories of how they got a diagnosis of celiac and what their life was like before beginning a gluten free diet and after they got better is fascinating and there is often a thread of hopeful relief that runs through the interviews.
Celiac is a unique disease with a treatment that is entirely dietary. Since food is a not only about eating, but also about socializing, people who are on a gluten free diet have a unique connection to other people who are on a gluten free diet and to people who provide food for them. They feel incredibly cared for by the individuals who can make their lives more "normal." The most moving part of the film is actually when the owner of Risotteria describes talking to a customer who ordered two pizzas and a beer. The customer started crying because he hadn't had pizza and beer for 10 years.
The film profiles several companies who have been on the forefront of providing gluten free food for celiacs: Foods by George, Risotteria, Peter's and Gluten Free Pantry are all interviewed in the film. In addition, it profiles several individuals who have started organizations which improve the life of celiacs: Dr. Peter Greene who founded the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, Pat MacGregor who founded the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program and the founders of Westchester Celiac Sprue Support Group. Living with celiac in New York City, the world depicted in the film is a world I know well. I eat at Peter's and Risotteria and I have heard Peter Green speak many times.
I think it is both a strength and a weakness of the film that it presented the stories so objectively. In many ways, it feels like you are sitting down with the people who are speaking--it seems real. On the other hand, at times, you wish there was a little more spin. Overall, it is a nice debut by Susan Cohen, who made this film while she was a student at Barnard. An important part of the film is showing how a diagnosis of celiac and pursuing a gluten free diet are life altering for people with celiac and the people closest to them.