Films on Chemicals

Homo Toxicus

Documentary 2008 NR 87 minutes. Documentarian Carole Poliquin uses wit, intelligence and common sense to unravel bureaucratic red tape and illuminate the science of the more than 100,000 chemicals created since World War II that contaminate mammals, plants, fish and even human DNA. Poliquin examines the prevalence of estrogen-mimicking compounds resulting in a lower birth rate of human males and the mutations of various species, and how science and governments are reacting. See Full Review

Plastic Planet

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 39m. This documentary examines the ways in which plastic saturates our modern lives, and how our dependency on this petroleum product harms ourselves and our planet. See how plastic’s toxic chemicals enter the food chain and other disturbing secrets. See Full Review

Addicted to Plastic

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 25m. Focusing on manufacturing, environmental effects and solutions, a documentarian journeys around the world to trace the life cycle of plastic. I definitely find myself choosing glass over plastic whenever I can (even when it costs more) because of this movie. Common plastics, such as fossil-fuel plastics, are derived from petroleum; those plastics rely more on fossil fuels and produce more greenhouse gas. BIOPLASTICS are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, pea starch. Some, but not all, bioplastics are designed to biodegrade. There is a variety of materials that bioplastics can be composed of, including: starches, cellulose, or other biopolymers. Some common applications of bioplastics are packaging materials, dining utensils, food packaging, and insulation. I am surprised that not all the companies make sure their plastic stuff biodegradable — everything should be!

Bag It

Documentary Humor 2010 NR 79 minutes. With a humorous tone, Suzan Beraza’s documentary follows average guy Jeb Berrier as he embarks on a personal quest to figure out where plastic bags come from, why they’re so ubiquitous and where they end up after they’re thrown away. One humorous bit points out that Evian spelled backwards is Naive. And Bag It is defined as 1. Put in a bag or 2. Stop doing it.

Blue Vinyl

Documentary 2002 NR 98 minutes. In this sardonic but sobering exposé, activist filmmakers Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold reveal the potentially toxic effects of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is used in everything from cars to water mains to toys. Armed with a piece of blue vinyl siding, Helfand and Gold head to Louisiana — America’s vinyl-manufacturing capital — and to Italy, where bigwigs from a PVC-producing company stand accused of manslaughter in a landmark case.

Tapped

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 15m. The high cost — to both the environment and our health — of bottled water is the subject of this documentary that enlists activists, environmentalists, community leaders and others to expose the dark side of the bottled water industry. Forty percent of bottled water is simply municipal tap water. Americans may rethink their obsession with bottled H20 when they learn of the unregulated industry’s willingness to ignore environmental and health concerns, and the problems that arise as a result. The issues surrounding bottled water — there are no standards, no controls, plastic bottles are a mass-produced waste product that clogs our landfills, and plastic bottles give off chemicals that we ingest along with the water itself. Very informative and concise regarding US water supply, marketing tricks that make consumers believe bottled water is somehow safer when it is certainly not proven to be the case. This really needs to be promoted more, people need to know this information. See Full Review

Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World

Documentary 2004 NR 90 minutes. Shows that aspartame the artificial sweetener in Diet Coke and other drinks causes health problems, brain damage, and death — which the FDA Food and Drug Administration fails to protect the public against. Filmmaker Cori Brackett’s riveting documentary probes the link between various health problems and the artificial sweetener aspartame. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Brackett set out to expose the toxicity of aspartame, prevalent in many foods despite warnings by the National Institutes of Health. Interviews with doctors, a former Food and Drug Administration investigator and other experts reveal controversial information about the sweetener. In 1976, the FDA notified U.S. attorney for Chicago, Sam Skinner, of the ongoing investigation of aspartame manufacturer Searle into whether two of Searle’s aspartame studies had been falsified or were incomplete. Skinner withdrew from the case when he was considering a job offer from Searle’s Chicago-based law firm, a job he later took. In 1981, FDA Commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes sought advice on the issue from a panel of FDA scientists and a lawyer. The panel presented arguments both for and against approval. Hayes approved the use of aspartame in dry foods. Several objections followed, but all were denied. In 1983, after approving aspartame Hayes left the FDA and joined Searle’s public relations agency at the time, as a senior medical adviser. The actions of Samuel Skinner, in taking a job with a law firm retained by Searle during an investigation into Searle, and Arthur Hull Hayes, in taking a job with Searle’s public relations agency following aspartame’s approval, fueled conspiracy theories. See Full Review

Poisoned Waters

Documentary Frontline 2009 NR 120 minutes. Turning a critical eye toward the growing problem of water pollution, this sobering installment of “Frontline” examines the conditions that lead to water contamination and the danger it poses to human health. The program exposes the worsening conditions of Puget Sound on the West Coast and Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast, pointing to the threat of continued runoff from development, agriculture and industry. See Full Review

GasLand

Documentary 2010 NR 107 minutes. In this Oscar-nominated documentary, director Josh Fox journeys across America to examine the negative effects of natural-gas drilling, from poisoned water sources to kitchen sinks that burst into flames to unhealthy animals and people. See Full Review

Split Estate

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 16m. The struggle between preserving public health and public treasures and satisfying the economy’s never-ending hunger for new energy sources is played out in the scenic landscape of Garfield County, Colo. Narrated by Ali MacGraw, the film details the oil and natural gas industry’s legacy of environmental damage and pollution in Colorado and elsewhere, as well as residents’ battle to protect their health and their clean water supplies.

The World According to Monsanto
(Le Monde Selon Monsanto)

Documentary 2008. Directed by Marie-Monique Robin. Originally released in French, the film is based on Robin’s three-year long investigation into the US agricultural giant Monsantocorporation’s practices around the world. The World According to Monsanto is also a book written by Marie-Monique Robin winner of the Rachel Carson Prize (a Norwegian prize for female environmentalists). See Full Review

Link to viewThe World According to Monsanto online free

The Yes Men Fix the World

Documentary 2009 NR 87 minutes. Two didactic pranksters known as the Yes Men — Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno — employ monkey business to highlight the political and economic shenanigans surrounding ecological catastrophes like the 1984 Union Carbide Corporation disaster in India. They pose as spokesman for the Dow Corporation (which took over Union Carbide) and go on live TV apologizing for their role in the incident and pledging to fix the wrong. In this film, the Yes Men go after a collection of corporations who have injured the world in one way or another. They go into corporate meetings and conventions posing as heads of business to expose how greed and instant stock satisfaction destroys lives. See Full Review

Semper Fi: Always Faithful

Documentary 2011 NR 76 minutes. This wrenching documentary follows Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, who lost his daughter to a rare leukemia, as he reveals how the Marine Corps has betrayed its soldiers and their families by exposing them to toxic water at a base in North Carolina.

Food Beware
The French Organic Revolution

Documentary 2009 NR 112 minutes. (Nos Enfants Nous Accuseront) Jean-Paul Jaud’s documentary visits the Barjac village in France, where the mayor has mandated an all-organic menu for the lunch program in the local school. Farmers, parents, kids and health care advocates discuss the impact of the decision. School and government officials also weigh in on why people are dying of cancer in ever-increasing numbers, the food industry’s role, the use of pesticides, nutrition and local sustainability. See Full Review

Hungry For Change

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 29m.  This documentary exposes secrets the diet, weight loss and food industries don’t want consumers to know about: deceptive strategies designed to keep you coming back for more. Find out what’s keeping people from having the body and health they want.

Bananas!*

Documentary 2009 NR 87 minutes. Nicaraguan laborers are paying a high price to get cheap bananas onto the world’s tables, and Southern California personal injury lawyer Juan Dominguez has decided to do something about it. This film tells his story. Director Fredrik Gertten follows Dominguez as he takes on corporate giants Dole Food and Dow Chemical on behalf of 10,000 banana workers made ill by a pesticide used in Nicaraguan plantations years after it was banned in the States.

Chemerical

Redefining Clean for a New Generation

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 15m. Blending humor and education, this engaging documentary follows the Goodes, a typical American family, as they attempt to rid their home of all toxins. The film provides simple remedies to help viewers reduce the toxic substances in their lives.

Faroe Islands
Whale Hunters and Mercury

Documentary Frontline / World 2007. For more than 1,000 years, the people of the Faroe Islands have hunted pilot whales, and whale meat continues to be an important part of their diet. Yet, the islanders now face a new threat: A landmark 20-year study of Faroese children has found that high levels of methyl mercury and other contaminants in the whale meat are harmful to a child’s neurological development.

Libby, Montana

Documentary 2005 NR 124 minutes. For nearly 30 years, residents of the quaint town of Libby, Mont., worked for the multinational corporation W.R. Grace, mining and processing an insulation product known as vermiculite. Little did they know, they were risking their lives. This compelling documentary follows the plight of these courageous Americans as they band together to lift one another up from throes of illness and take on the all-powerful corporation. WR Grace corporation disregarded safety concerns that led to death and damage of a whole town. They then declared bankruptcy and left the bill to the government. Ronald Reagan placed Mr. Grace in charge of a federal position to trim the size of the government, thereby preventing anyone in power from actually taking action or easily ruling against Grace. The story of Libby, its residents and the workers of Grace Co. is moving, infuriating and a real indictment of the deregulation spree of the Reagan years, continued by Bush One, not helped much by Clinton, and taken to an obscene extreme by Bush Two. It is one more important documentation of the failure of Free-Market Gone Wild. An especially timely documentary when Republican and Tea Party stooges whine that corporations need weaker environmental laws. WR Grace, a US multi-national corporation, knowingly exposes a trusting community of workers and their families to asbestos for over 40 years, then shifts billions in assets to avoid liability. One expert says you expect environmental travesties of this magnitude in poor countries, but not in the US.  It’s a lesson in just how bad things get without strong government intervention. The film concerns the biggest environmental-crime prosecution in U.S. history. Isn’t it odd that everyone knows of BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill, yet most of us are unaware of how The Grace Corporation left a Montana town to die. See Full Review

Seeds of Suicide
India’s Desperate Farmers

Documentary Frontline / World 2005. Suicide by pesticide: It’s an epidemic in India, where farmers try to keep up with the latest pest-resistant seeds only to find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of pesticides that don’t work, drought and debt. Since 1997, more than 25,000 farmers have committed suicide, many drinking the chemical that was supposed to make their crops more, not less, productive.

Battle’s Poison Cloud

Documentary 2004 NR 56 minutes. In this critically acclaimed exposé, filmmaker Cecile Trijssenaar documents the record numbers of birth defects and other health problems related to the lingering toxins of Agent Orange that had been sprayed over the landscape of Vietnam by U.S. troops. Even after the war ended, a cloud of tragedy remained due to the 17 million gallons of the chemical weapon that was dumped. The film calls for an admission of culpability and a much-needed cleanup. (Sound not in synch.)

Erin Brockovich

Docudrama 2000 R 131 minutes. Julia Roberts earned an Oscar in this unconventional drama based on actual events for her portrayal of Erin Brockovich, a twice-divorced mother of three who sees an injustice, takes on the bad guy and wins — with a little help from her push-up bra. She develops a case against PG&E; for poisoning the water of the community of Hinkley, CA, with the carcinogen, hexavalent chromium.

A Civil Action

Docudrama 1998 PG-13 115 minutes. In this drama based on a true story, John Travolta stars as a personal-injury lawyer who sues a major corporation when the drinking water in Woburn, Mass., is found to contain high levels of industrial solvents. Believing the contamination is responsible for the large number of leukemia deaths among the town’s children, the citizens — lead by a woman (Kathleen Quinlan) whose child has died — hire a lawyer to take on the corporate polluters.

Safe

Drama 1995 R. Julianne Moore gives an astonishing performance as Carol White, a suburban housewife whose affluent environment suddenly turns against her. All seems well until the day Carol claims everyday environmental toxins are making her increasingly ill. Director Todd Haynes’ breakthrough feature is a bold, darkly comic, completely original drama depicting Carol’s descent into the horrors of modern-day living. Yes, the majority of the population does not have chemical sensitivity. Safe seems to be out of print so blame the studio not Netflix for Netflix not being able to get it. Once their copies were damaged or lost they couldn’t get more. You can buy your own copy for anywheres up to $100. Oh well. Another movie that just fell between the cracks.

In Our Water

Documentary Frontline 1983. Frank Kaler’s story begins simply enough when he requests a water test. Why? Because his children develop skin lesions after bathing in it. Frontline chronicles Kaler’s six-year battle with local and federal officials over the chemical pollution of his drinking water.

Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal

Docudrama 1982 TV-14 96 minutes. Marsha Mason stars in this inspirational made-for-TV movie as mother turned activist Lois Gibbs, who refused to keep quiet when she suspected that chemical waste was poisoning her children — and scores of others in Love Canal, N.Y. What begins as a one-woman crusade to get the government to take responsibility for their suffering mushrooms into a 700-strong community battle for accountability, justice and truth.

Bitter Harvest

Drama 1981 NR 1hr 34m. When cows on their dairy farm suddenly begin dropping like flies, Kate and Ned De Vries (Tarah Nutter and Ron Howard) discover that their land has been contaminated with chemicals. Before long, their family begins to suffer the effects as well. But every effort they make to seek government assistance is met with red tape and rejection. This powerful made-for-television drama was nominated for four Emmy Awards.

The War at Home

Documentary 1979 UR 100 minutes.  Documentarians Barry Alexander Brown and Glenn Silber vividly chronicle the Vietnam War protest movement of the 1960s and ’70s at the University of Wisconsin in a film that incorporates rare raw footage. The overall effect is an incisive depiction of how anti-war acrimony in the United States spread from committed activists to fraternity row on college campuses to the business community at large.  Students protest against Dow Chemical Corporation for making napalm used to bomb Vietnam.

Two Days in October

Documentary American Experience 2005 NR 90 minutes. In October 1967, a U.S. regiment walked into a Vietcong ambush that killed 61 soldiers — and raised doubts about whether the war was winnable. Meanwhile, University of Wisconsin students protested the presence of Dow Chemical recruiters on campus. The demonstration soon spun out of control, marking the first time a protest became violent. Told by those who took part in the events, the film offers a window into a defining American moment.

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