Sam Hurst’s documentary follows the health odyssey of Beau LeBeau, a 35-year-old Oglala Lakota struggling with significant health problems.
A basketball player in high school, LeBeau’s adulthood is marred by obesity and the threat of diabetes. He agrees to part of an experiment where he undergoes a vigorous exercise regimen and a traditional Lakota diet centered on buffalo meat and fresh vegetables. LeBeau’s body responds positively to the experiment, but he is emotionally drained due to the apathy of his friends and family, who are unwilling to get into better shape. Despite the obstacles in his path, LeBeau keeps a positive attitude, and the results of his labors quickly become visible.
“Good Meat” also casts a wider net in showing how poverty and geographical isolation have negatively impacted the health and diet of American Indians, resulting in abnormally high levels of diabetes and low life expectancy. Just trying to purchase nutritional food at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is an uphill fight – at one point, LeBeau’s sisters drive 90 miles to Rapid City, S.D., just to purchase reasonably priced food at a Wal-Mart.
Sadly, Hurst’s film does not dig deeper regarding the seemingly self-destructive health habits of the reservation Indians – claims by members of LeBeau’s family that they lack the knowledge to shop intelligently come across as a poor excuse – and the film’s post-script of LeBeau’s sliding back into bad habits after the experiment ends is particularly worrisome. Nonetheless, “Good Meat” is both invigorating and disturbing, and definitely worth seeking out.