Nominated for: Best Documentary Feature

With a plethora of concerning wildlife documentaries out there, going into the screening of A Plastic Ocean I certainly had reservations. However, thank goodness my assumptions were completely shattered by this cinematic, globe-sweeping insight into the impact that humanity’s production and disposal of plastic has on the corruption of the earth’s oceans, its wildlife and, most shockingly, on humanity itself. As both a visual feast and an invaluable learning experience, the film is one to be seen in the highest regard.

The production boasts an extraordinary amount of research and manpower; the scope of the project is indeed breathtaking. As a collaboration between Plastic Oceans Foundation co-founder and producer Jo Ruxton and journalist-cum-director Craig Leeson, the result is a striking Blue Planet-esque documentary, with the added bonus of astute interviews with marine biologists, the inhabitants of Pacific islands, and industry experts.

“I’d urge all of humanity to watch it, for our sake”

As well as displaying the astounding beauty of our natural world with cinematic aesthetic (the first-ever shot of a pygmy blue whale underwater being a particular marvel), the film also challenges its viewers with the shocking realities of the how we humans are destroying the planet with our irresponsible waste management. One moment I was admiring the grace of seals and turtles as they swam freely to safely, the next I was physically revolted at the sight of a sea-bird vomiting large shards of plastic that they had inadvertently, yet inevitably, ingested whilst feeding. In fact, the whole section shot at Lord Howe Island off the coast of Sydney was an intense eye-opener. The marine biologist intent on ending the deaths of these sea birds displayed, in graphic detail, the disgusting extent to which they feed on plastic. Many birds, as we see, can have around 50 different pieces of plastic lodged in their gut until it physically explodes – equivalent to twelves pizzas in the human stomach. A shocking yet necessary section of the film, and one I certainly took away with some sadness.

Many viewers would perhaps disregard the effect that this plastic-based pollution has on humans, but what was possibly the most unbelievably tragic truth in the whole film was how we were harming ourselves as well as the natural world around us without knowing. Small micro-plastics that are ingested by fish are therefore eaten by us also, and even health and baby products made of plastic can contain an ersatz sex hormone, possibly leading to complications. The island of Tuvalu is essentially displayed as an inhabited waste dump, with their ability to dispose of waste at a minimum. The burning of plastics in Fijian cooking was also proven to be cancerous, and in Pacific Islands, infertility in women is also commonplace due to the unhealthy burning of plastics. Leeson and free-diving champion Tanya Streeter handle their interviews with the inhabitants extremely well, able to identify the problems they face and the terrible impact that worldwide plastic disposal has.

There is of course concerning grotesque imagery and facts about our own irresponsibility, with an infographic repeatedly popping up throughout the film to display how much plastic has been used up in that certain time period. But the film ends with a feeling of hope that there are schemes and companies looking forward to our future and attempting to minimise pollution for a better world. With further education (which Jo Ruxton wishes to spread following the release of this film), plastic disposal should hopefully be cut down drastically. A Plastic Ocean is an insightful and provocative game-changer, and I’d urge all of humanity to watch it, for our sake.


Image: Craig Leeson 2016

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