It begins as a bunch of material objects dangle in front of you, and ominous music plays in the background before the voice of Jeremy Irons, equally ominous it seems, begins taking you around the world showing off the disastrous effects of consumerism and disregard: an Earth full of trash.
It is less an inconvenient truth than a darkly disturbing reality in Trashed, a powerful documentary by Candida Brady that premiered at Cannes and made its Canadian debut at the Planet In Focus Festival. It doesn’t take long to get to the alarm either, as instantly we are taken to a massive dump on a former Lebanon beach, unregulated, disgusting, and toxic, oozing into a body of water that you don’t even dare look at, let alone go in.
Brady follows around Mr. Irons as he traverses the globe, from Lebanon to the U.K, from Iceland to Indonesia and eventually to San Francisco in the United States, documenting the physical, social, and economic problems associated with an ever-growing waste-producing society. And hopefully finding some solutions.
Mr. Irons is the perfect guide. He asks the right questions of those he interviews, including scientists, farmers, and politicians, and he possesses a certain gravitas to hammer home the sheer importance of the problem. He also of course is great on his feet, throwing in a few jokes with his British humour, and is charming and funny despite the dire topic.
And it is indeed dire; this is not a film for the weak of stomach or tender of heart. We are taken to a shop of horrors in Vietnam to see the effects of dioxins (a pollutant released by incinerators) short term and long term, and it would seem that chemicals released during the Vietnam War are still having an effect on babies born, and unborn. Brady gets up close as we witness a multitude of deformed fetuses changed by chemicals kept in a woman’s body and passed down through pregnancy. We then travel to a heartbreaking Vietnamese hospital that is caring for those born with defects.
The journey is a lengthy one, and often depressing, but there is hope it would seem. Eventually we make it to a city that has made attempts to live by a zero-waste rule and has created an efficient model of a recycling plant. This is not before however, we visit family farms devastated by pollutants, beaches littered with waste, and oceans filled with a milky film of plastic and toxins spread out across hundreds and hundreds of miles.
The amount of trashed piled up and improperly disposed of, if at all, is staggering and incredibly alarming. If you look closely, you can see Mr. Irons very carefully and slowly breathing through his mouth as he travels and you might just too as you watch. The film is reminiscent of Vice President Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth in scope, detail, and importance, and like that award-winning film unfortunately, there are those who will be apt to deny the science and impending danger.
You cannot deny the images though, and they are truly breath-taking in their disturbing way. It is film everyone should see, well-produced, meticulously-made, and simply alarming, and hopefully powerful enough to help make a change for the better.