I got my usual random e-mail from VegNews Magazine on a Thursday in late may and came upon a list of the “best veg movies of all time.” I read through the description of each movie — some of which were documentaries and some fiction. Always a sucker for docs, I took particular interest in one called “May I Be Frank,” and set to the Internet to track it down. It wasn’t on Netflix, so I Googled it and found a website for the movie.
Much to my surprise, there was a screening scheduled in Detroit two days later! It was Memorial Day weekend — which is always busy, but I bought the $10 ticket and hoped for the best. I ended up being able to make it and I’m so glad I did! Unfortunately, only about 20 of the 130 people who bought tickets made it, but at least all those tickets were purchased, which helps support the movie. A local couple, the Cresseys who had traveled to Muskegon during “snowmageddon” earlier in the year to see the movie, were responsible for both the Detroit screening and one in Farmington the following day.
Now, onto the movie! The footage was filmed a few years ago in San Francisco. In short, New York native Frank Ferrante was in San Francisco , lonely, overweight, unhealthy, addicted, depressed. Close your eyes and you would swear it was Tony Danza. Ferrante wandered into the primarily raw Cafe Gratitude one day and was greeted with smiles and hellos. Though he didn’t love the food (he admits he would leave and go get ribs or pizza each time) Ferrante started coming every day because he loved how it made him feel. He felt happier, cared about, less alone.
One day the young guys who ran the place had a proposition for him — would he be willing to do the anti-Supersize Me and eat at Cafe Gratitude three times a day, see holistic doctors, and allow full access to his life and apartment for filming it all. The divorced Ferrante admits he longs to fall in love again, but wonders how anyone could love him as he is. At a point in his life when he thought things could only go up, Ferrante figured, “Why not?”
Over the course of 42 days, Ferrante started each day with wheatgrass shots, detoxed from junk food, had 2 or 3 colonics, and, within about three weeks was clear of almost all of the dozens of medications he was on — including those for Hepatitis C. In fact, after about 20 days, his Hep C medication seemed to be making him sick. He was tested again and was all clear. He continues to be free of Hepatitis C.
He lost dozens of pounds, finds some peace in his life and his smile is sincere. His self-depricating humor continues, but the overhaul of both his mind and body is evident. One of the toughest scenes in the movie is when Ferrante asks his ex-wife to come visit so he can make amends and she does. They reconnect — in various ways — but when the guys come by to film and prod about how the visit is going, Ferrante’s anger comes out full force and you see the ways in which he remains hurt, angry and damaged despite his progress. It was one of the most uncomfortable scenes I’ve viewed in a documentary, though I’m not exactly sure why. During a chat with the movie’s director, Gregg Marks, after the screening, he said we were the first audience to view the movie that didn’t have a single person walk out during that scene. It’s just that tough to take.
I won’t tell you anymore about Ferrante’s progress, fallbacks, victories or failures (and there are all of the above), but I will tell you that today he is healthy, smiling and continuing on a journey he never expected to have when he walked into Cafe Gratitude that day.
While the filmmakers look for a distributor to pick up the movie, you will be able to buy a double DVD of the film and extras sometime this month on the website. For anyone local, I’m happy to loan out my copy of the film itself, so just let me know if you would like to see it.
Vegetarian or not, healthy or unhealthy, happy or unhappy, this is a film about transformation, possibilities and hope. And who couldn’t use a little inspiration in one of those categories?
You can check out the trailer and other videos on the movie’s site. Check out the extended trailer HERE.