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Cruel kindness.

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About this work


This extremely enjoyable film, which contains excellent footage of late 1960's home life, attitudes to food and meal times, addresses obesity in children. A female GP narrates the story of three children who are overweight for their age stressing that although there may be some inherited causes of their obesity, it is mostly due to over-feeding on the part of the parents, what the GP calls a cruel kindness.


England, 1968.

Physical description

1 encoded moving image (13 min.) : sound, color



Copyright note

British Medical Association

Terms of use

Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales

Language note

In English

Creator/production credits

An Oswalk Skilbeck production for the Film Producers Guild, made in association with Film Centre International Ltd. Written and directed by Winifred Holmes and produced by the British Life Assurance Trust for Health Education with the British Medical Association.


Segment 1 Children are seen playing in a school playground, and the GP narrator points out Ronnie Brown and Jimmy Grant, both ten years old and weighing 9 stone. She also points out Valerie Smith, aged 11 and weighing 7 stone 12 pounds. The children are seen buying ice creams and sweets after school. The Brown family are seen eating dinner, which consists of pie, cakes, bread and jam and buns. The narrator explains that the Brown family are overweight and take no exercise. They also have an ignorance about what a sensible diet should be. An animation shows the three food groups of protein, carbohydrate and fat, explains that there should be a balance, and what they all do in the body. The animation also shows that vitamins from fruit and vegetables are necessary. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:04:08:21 Length: 00:04:08:21
Segment 2 Mrs Brown thinks that fatness runs in families, and the GP explains that there is some truth in this. The narrator explains how bad feeding habits can start with the birth of a child, from putting sugar into milk to make it sweeter, to feeding children sweets and not letting them get enough exercise. The film then focuses on Valerie Smith, who comes from a broken home. She began eating chocolate to console herself after her father left, and the mother does not pay much attention to her. The GP explains that if Valerie receives no help, she will grow into a fat, breathless woman who must buy outsize dresses and sit by herself at dances as no one will want to dance with her. Then Jimmy Grant is seen. His mother is overweight but his father and brother are slim. Jimmy has been given a letter from school explaining that he is overweight and must see a doctor. He and his mother go to see the GP who has been narrating the film, and she weighs him and measures his body fat with callipers. The doctor explains that Jimmy must go on a diet, and although the mother initially wants a quick solution, agrees to help her son. Time start: 00:04:08:21 Time end: 00:09:17:15 Length: 00:05:08:23
Segment 3 The doctor explains how food that is not used for energy is turned into body fat, and that it is much easier to prevent fatness than to slim down. She also explains calories and the right way to cut down food intake. The doctor gives Mrs Grant a diet sheet, explaining what foods Jimmy should eat and what foods he should cut down on. As Mrs Grant and Jimmy leave the doctor's, Mrs Brown and Ronnie are going in. Mrs Brown however, does not cooperate with the doctor and refuses to put Ronnie on a diet, saying that her family are fat people and that is all there is to it. Jimmy however, with the help of his mother, begins to lose weight and do better in sports. The doctor says to the camera that to cure a fat child is not a simple matter, and that the child, parents and doctor all need to work together. Time start: 00:09:17:15 Time end: 00:13:04:00 Length: 00:03:46:14


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