We all know that we are what we eat, and we're also aware that the atmosphere of toxins we exist in, day in and day out, has a marked and unmistakable effect on our bodies. To what extent, though, we do not know.

Enter Emmanuelle Schick, a Spanish-Canadian writer and filmmaker. Inspired and horrified by the skyrocketing (and in most cases unexplained) cancer cases in her immediate circle of friends and family, Schick and her sister set out to find answers. In the end-result documentary 'The Idiot Cycle,' the two women attest that certain major chemical companies (including Bayer, BASF, AstraZeneca, Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and DuPont) are at once creating all these toxic products and foods, while manufacturing the "cures" for the sicknesses they create, hence the term 'Idiot Cycle'.

The documentary is information-packed, and definitely hits close to home. There is ample footage in the town of Sarnia, Ontario, where the chemical spill siren rings frequently and eerily over the population. Moviefone Canada spoke to Schick about her harrowing journey to the core of this issue, and what average people can do to help save their own lives, and the lives of their families.
We all know that we are what we eat, and we're also aware that the atmosphere of toxins we exist in, day in and day out, has a marked and unmistakable effect on our bodies. To what extent, though, we do not know.

Enter Emmanuelle Schick, a Spanish-Canadian writer and filmmaker. Inspired and horrified by the skyrocketing (and in most cases unexplained) cancer cases in her immediate circle of friends and family, Schick and her sister set out to find answers. In the end-result documentary 'The Idiot Cycle,' the two women attest that certain major chemical companies (including Bayer, BASF, AstraZeneca, Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and DuPont) are at once creating all these toxic products and foods, while manufacturing the "cures" for the sicknesses they create, hence the term 'Idiot Cycle'.

The documentary is information-packed, and definitely hits close to home. There is ample footage in the town of Sarnia, Ontario, where the chemical spill siren rings frequently and eerily over the population. Moviefone Canada spoke to Schick about her harrowing journey to the core of this issue, and what average people can do to help save their own lives, and the lives of their families.

Your inspiration for the film was your mother's cancer, right?

The impetus was my mother's cancer, yes. When we asked the doctors what caused the cancer, they couldn't really give an answer. My sister (she became a doctor shortly thereafter) and I started researching. It led me to realize – why have half of my friends, at the age of 24, already lost a parent, or had a parent diagnosed with cancer? Most of them didn't smoke, so a lot of things didn't add up. I've had 10 friends of mine diagnosed or dead from cancer before the age of 30. I talked about this with my parents, and they couldn't remember any of their friends having cancer at those ages, or having known so many adults who have cancer. It's really an epidemic.

So it seems it may be generational.

The facts I uncovered kind of substantiated my suspicions. Most of my friends don't smoke, they're healthy, they exercise – what else is causing this? It's a little unsettling.

It's very upsetting, and it's almost like people are just accepting it because we're living longer.

People don't like to look at the root causes - like looking at a car, for example. A car is a cancer-causing product. From the extraction of the resources to make the car to the end product, all the plastics, all the refining of the petrol, the car exhaust. We never talk about the car. Why? Because people are very attached to them. I looked at The Globe and Mail today, and there were like 17 pages dedicated to car ads alone.

I find it incredible that there's no debate, there's no democracy – it's all very one-sided. I think it's a real cop-out when documentary filmmakers and journalists leave out the names of the companies for fear of lawsuits and damaged reputations. At the end of the day, these companies have created cancer-causing chemicals, and they have been for decades. That's a fact. I can't excuse that. I don't want to live in a community where one entity overshadows everything else.

Looking on your website, I was shocked at certain facts you present – like Breast Cancer Month is sponsored by AstraZeneca...

Yeah, and a lot of people don't know that! I didn't know – and I did the Avon walk without knowing that Avon has cancer-causing elements in their products. I did the Revlon Run. When someone you love gets cancer, you're lost and confused; you're looking for things to grasp onto. A cure for cancer is so hopeful, and everyone gets together for a great cause. Finding a cure would be wonderful, don't get me wrong, but in the meantime, there are so many causes of cancer that we're completely ignoring.

And let's not forget the marketing machine.

It's such a great marketing strategy, if you're somehow involved in the search for the cancer cure. Dow, for example, founded the Blue Planet Run where people run, around the globe, for a foundation that provides clean drinking water. But Dow is one of the worst water polluters in the world. And you have celebrities like Jessica Biel who go and talk on behalf of certain charities. These people have no idea about the history of the charity, or who founded it, and they use their name for gain. I'm annoyed, too, with Michael Moore, who goes to Sarnia for his film 'Sicko', uses their great health care system as an example, and then completely ignores that 50 percent of the petrochemical industry in Canada is in Sarnia, and there's incredible rates of cancer there.

Were you at all apprehensive to go toe-to-toe with these corporations?

At some points. In the past couple of weeks, I've been receiving emails – one from a scientist that works at Agri-Food Canada – they're trying to figure out what my level of stubbornness is, whether I'm going to stand my ground or not. What I repeat to them is, if they've got documentation that I've overlooked that needs to come to my attention, then I'm more than happy to read them and reevaluate my take on the issue. Once I say that, I never receive any mail.

Did you encounter any roadblocks while filming?

No, they didn't really know who I was, so it was pretty much OK. It was very difficult to get interviews with any of them [the companies]. What was great was in Europe, we had lobbyists, the European Commissioner of Health, and we had the president of EFSA [European Food Safety Authority], who overlooks all the GMO [genetically-modified organism] issues. They all sat down to talk. What I found in Canada, when I tried to get interviews with Agri-Food Canada, Health Canada, or Environment Canada, nobody wanted to sit down. It was like a merry-go-round.



What was the most unsettling thing that you uncovered over your years of research?

I guess it's this apathy and indifference. I was talking with somebody who used to work for Dow, and I after I told her some of the stuff I had learned about Dow, she didn't even know, and she was quite high-up in the company. A woman from Monsanto, another former employee, said "It was a job, I was well-paid." These are nice people, they're intelligent, they have university degrees, and yet it's so easy to disassociate yourself from things. You don't live in Sarnia, so you don't have to think about it. But the truth is, carcinogens travel. This stuff comes into our homes.

That Sarnia chemical spill siren in the movie is horrifying.

I've never heard anything like it. When you're there, it feels like there are speakers in the sky.

It's like nuclear fallout. I'd be afraid to breathe.

The first night we stayed there, I was walking to the bathroom to get some water and I almost fell over. Benzene there is so bad, a lot of my crew members had headaches, I felt dizzy, it was just terrible. One of the lawyers who helps out, he refused to stay the night there. There are so many stories about infertility, miscarriages...people's skin there just looks...they just look really sick.

It's not only in the air that we breathe, but also the products we use on a daily basis. It's difficult to find products that don't have any carcinogenic ingredients in them. What sorts of suggestions do you have for people who are searching for this kind of stuff, but can't find it?

I have a friend who has been searching for a non-toxic lipstick, and it took her three years to make one. At the end of the day, if you can't find it, don't buy it. I don't wear makeup unless it's a special occasion, and I found some organics that don't have a lot of that stuff. In France, they don't wear that much makeup. It's not about being a hippie, or going au naturel, but what are you hiding? It's even difficult with clothes.

It was very brave of you to take on this mammoth topic.

When I tried to go out and get financing, no one wanted to touch it. Even my lawyer was like "I don't think you realize what it's going to be like when this movie comes out, if you even finish it." I said it doesn't matter. I've lost people, and I've seen people really suffer from cancer that are more important to me than $500 million.

'The Idiot Cycle' screens on November 13th at 7:45 at the Coeur des sciences Building, UQAM, and November 15th at 4:00 pm at Cinematheque Quebecoise.

It is also playing for one night, November 14th, at 6:30 pm at The Royal Cinema in Toronto.

For more information on how to detoxify your life and your home, check out this in-depth article at That's Fit Canada.