Director: Candida Brady
Featuring: Jeremy Irons
A vividly sketched documentary of environmental warning which deploys co-producer Jeremy Irons as its inquisitive guide, “Trashed” sets out to discover the full extent of the world’s waste management problem, and diagnose its dangerous and rapidly increasing consequences for humankind. Directed by Candida Brady, the movie serves as a compelling indictment of modern profligacy, and a call to action for both aggressive macro reforms and sensible but pointed overhauls in individual behavior.
“Trashed” opens in Lebanon, where Irons, serving as an interviewer and audience escort, not unlike Keanu Reeves in this year’s “Side by Side,” visits a seaside Beirut suburb where 80 tons of refuse per day are added to a huge garbage mountain. Sadly but predictably, this has had a huge impact on the Mediterranean Sea, where waste and run-off of cadmium, chromium six and other heavy metals, swept up by currents, reaches as far as Italy. While it dips into the usual big-picture statistics, using them like a prizefighter’s jab, “Trashed” continues for most of its running time in much this fashion, offering up discrete, targeted snapshots of lingering and problematic garbage and burn-off pollution. Driven by a rangy ambition, Brady cycles from a look at the North Pacific Gyre (whose unusually intense concentration of man-made debris startled scientists several years ago) to a town in France where dioxin emission levels are 13,000 times the allowable rate, and a special-needs orphanage and child care center in Vietnam where the effects of the rampant use of Agent Orange are still being felt decades later.
Its mode is sometimes a bit on the nose (composer Vangelis contributes a score that, especially early on, heartily depresses the buttons of ill-omened dread), but lest one think something like Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men” was too fanciful, “Trashed” does a good job in connecting the dots between present-day marine animal problems and a rise in human infertility, as well as the chances for a future tipping point if nothing is done now.
Plastics in and of themselves aren’t the problem, Brady’s film argues; it’s the combination of their ubiquity along with the fact that we’ve accepted, nurtured (and even celebrated) a disposable consumer culture. Hundreds and even thousands of years ago, the earth could be counted on to reliably recycle the sum total waste of human existence, since it consisted chiefly of materials like wood, paper, copper and even iron, all of which would eventually decay. Plastics, however, break down at an exponentially slower rate, and also leach dangerous chemicals — especially in water — that are not found in nature.
While exhaustively researched and compellingly stitched together (Irons’ welcome, fully engaged participation even allows for a few moments of levity, as when he loses his markers while trying to take soil samples), “Trashed” doesn’t expend quite as much energy assaying governmental policies and perspectives on this looming problem, apart from highlighting the dispiriting degree to which big-money corporate lobbying helps set agendas and protect habitual polluters in the United Kingdom (Brady is British-born) and other industrialized nations every bit as much as in the United States. Still, Brady’s film is an alarm that can’t be ignored. Socially conscious cineastes would be wise to support it as much as they can.
NOTE: “Trashed” opens this week in New York City at the Quad Cinema and in Los Angeles at the Laemmle NoHo 7. At the latter venue, director Brady and Captain Charles Moore, an interviewee from the film, will be present for a special Q&A on opening night. For more information, visit www.TrashedFilm.com.
Written by: Brent Simon