Jeremy Irons stands on a beach beside the ancient Lebanese city of Sidon. Above him towers a mountain of rubbish-a pullulating eyesore of medical waste, household trash, toxic fluids and dead animals-the result of thirty years of consumption by just one small city out of how many in the world? As the day’s new consignments are tipped on top, debris tumbles off the side and into the blue of the Mediterranean. Surrounded by a vast reach of plastic bottles, a forlorn Jeremy Irons stares at the horizon. “Appalling,” he mutters.
In the new docu-feature TRASHED, a Blenheim Films production, produced and directed by British filmmaker Candida Brady (Madam and the Dying Swan), which was selected to receive a Special Screening at the Cannes Film Festival, Irons sets out to discover the extent and effects of the global waste problem, as he travels around the world to beautiful destinations tainted by pollution. This is a meticulous, brave investigative journey that takes Irons (and us) from scepticism to sorrow and from horror to hope. Brady’s narrative is vividly propelled by an original score created by Academy Award winning composer Vangelis.
The beauty of our planet from space forms a violent contrast to the scenes of human detritus across the globe. Vast landscapes in China are covered in tons of rubbish. The wide waters of the Ciliwung River in Indonesia are now barely visible under a never-ending tide of plastic. Children swim among leaking bags; mothers wash in the sewage-filled supply. Each year, we now throw away fifty-eight billion disposable cups, billions of plastic bags, 200 billion litres of water bottles, billions of tons of household waste, toxic waste and e-waste.
We buy it, we bury it, we burn it and then we ignore it. Does anyone think about what happens to all the trash we produce? We keep making things that do not break down. We have all heard these horrifying facts before, but with Jeremy Irons as our guide, we discover what happens to the billion or so tons of waste that goes unaccounted for each year. On a boat in the North Pacific he faces the reality of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the effect of plastic waste on marine life. We learn that chlorinated dioxins and other man-made Persistent Organic Pollutants are attracted to the plastic fragments. These are eaten by fish, which absorb the toxins. We then eat the fish, accumulating more poisonous chemicals in our already burdened bodies. Meanwhile, global warming, accelerated by these emissions from landfill and incineration, is melting the ice-caps and releasing decades of these old poisons, which had been stored in the ice, back into the sea. And we learn that some of the solutions are as frightening and toxic as the problem itself.
Academy Award winning actor Jeremy Irons is no stranger to taking centre stage. But his role as our guide in TRASHED highlighting solutions to the pressing environmental problems facing us all, could well be his most important yet. “We’ve made this movie, because there are so many people who feel strongly the urgent need for the problem of ‘waste’ and ‘sustainability’ to be addressed,” Irons says. “There is an equally urgent need for the most imaginative and productive solutions to this troublesome subject to be understood and shared by as many communities as possible throughout the world. This is where movies can play such an important role, educating society, bringing ‘difficult’ subjects to the broadest possible audience.
If you look at Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, like it or loathe it, everyone’s heard of it. Potentially movies have the power to reach everyone, touch us on an emotional level and to galvanise us.” Candida Brady spent over two years researching and filming TRASHED, but Brady has been focused on the problems of waste and the environment for most of her adult life. “As a lifelong asthmatic I have always been interested in the effects of pollution. But it was meeting an environmental doctor (who saved my life) that opened my eyes to the direct effects the environment has on our health,” explains Brady. “When I was young I was the only kid with an inhaler-these days it’s fast becoming the opposite.”
Having faced the worst through much of TRASHED, Jeremy Irons turns to hope. He goes in search of solutions. From individuals who have changed their lives and produce almost no waste, to increasing anti-waste legislation, to an entire city which is now virtually waste-free, he discovers that change is not only essential, but happening.