×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Plastic Planet

"Plastic Planet" is that rare call-to-action documentary that might rouse viewers to do something.

With:
With: John Taylor, Peter Lieberzeit, Marques Brown, Othman Ilyassa, Klaus Rhomberg, Beatrice Bortolozzo, Felice Casson, Juergen Artner, Frederic Corbin, Robin Tharaldson, Hermann Bicherl, Vicky Zhang, Theo Colborn, Kurt Scheidl, Rupsha Raghuram, Charles Moore, Susan Jobling, Scott Belcher, Patricia Hunt, Gunther von Hagens, Badru Okidi, Hiroshi Sagae, Jeff Harris, Fred vom Saal, Craig Halgreen, Guido Brosius, Stefano Facco, Catia Bastioli, Ray Hammond, Margot Wallstrom, Elfriede Boote. Narrator: Mark Jefferis. (German, English, Italian, Dutch dialogue)

“Plastic Planet” is that rare call-to-action documentary that might rouse viewers to do something more than nod their heads in agreement. A methodically researched yet engaging examination of the environmental and health problems associated with plastic, this wide-ranging warning cry uses an intelligent investigative style along with animation and vintage footage to drive home its message. Though helmer Werner Boote indulges in a few Michael Moore-like encounters, his likable personality makes him an appealing proselytizer. A September Austrian release unspooled on 28 screens; offshore specialty houses will benefit, but ancillary will have the biggest impact.

As a child, Boote was captivated by his grandfather’s fulsome praise for the wonders of plastic. It seemed everything could be made from the magic substance, rendering modern life easier, cheaper, even healthier. The helmer starts his investigation by talking with PlasticsEurope prexy John Taylor, who largely repeats the lines Boote’s grandfather told him decades earlier. Educational shorts from the ’50s and nostalgia-inducing vintage Tupperware commercials further convey the wonders of plastic and its 500-year shelf life.

Popular on Variety

However, as Boote learns, the incorruptibility of plastic is largely industry hype. The problem is that there’s no regulation of what goes into plastics, which are routinely combined with toxic additives. So while that beach bucket in the garage might be around another four centuries, part of it is already disintegrating and entering the food chain.

Boote visits a Chinese manufacturer of plastic blow-up globes — a fortuitous metaphor — which turn out to be heavily adulterated with mercury and the toxic compound Bisphenol A. In Italy, he interviews Beatrice Bortolozzo, whose father, Gabriele, was a kind of Karen Silkwood, drawing attention to chemicals being pumped into the Venice lagoon. Interspersed with these and other scenes are sped-up vignettes of families from different social and ethnic groups emptying their homes of a phenomenal number of plastic products.

The docu also addresses the pollution problem, from the now plastic-strewn desert where “Lawrence of Arabia” was shot to the Pacific Ocean, where Charles Moore reveals an enormous patch of water thick with bottle caps and other plastic debris. There is a positive note toward the end, with a discussion of degradable bioplastics, but as Boote points out, even were the world to switch tomorrow, we’d still have billions of tons of the old stuff sitting around for another few centuries.

The docu’s cumulative effect is bound to make auds think about the kinds of plastics they use and how they dispose of them. While the topic is serious, Boote makes it playful through his own humor and Peter Hoehsl’s manga-style animation. Though shot in 15 countries around the globe, the lensing has an attractive cohesiveness. For some inexplicable reason, the narrator in the international-release version maintains Boote’s first-person p.o.v., though it’s obvious the voice does not belong to the helmer.

Plastic Planet

Austria-Germany

Production: A Neue Sentimental Film (Austria) presentation of a Neue Sentimental Film Entertainment (Austria)/Brandstorm Entertainment (Germany)/Cine Cartoon Film (Austria) production. Produced by Thomas Bogner, Daniel Zuta. Executive producers, Tom Glaeser, Ilann Girard. Directed, written by Werner Boote.

Crew: Camera (color), Thomas Kirschner; editors, Ilana Goldschmidt, Cordula Werner, Tom Pohanka; music, the Orb; sound (Dolby Digital), Eick Hoemann, Jens Ludwig, Ekkehart Baumung; animator, Peter Hoehsl; line producer, Florian Brandt, Henning Kroeger. Reviewed at Middle East Film Festival (What in the World Are We Doing to Our World?), Abu Dhabi, Oct. 15, 2009. (Also in Rio de Janeiro, Warsaw, Mar del Plata film festivals.) Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: John Taylor, Peter Lieberzeit, Marques Brown, Othman Ilyassa, Klaus Rhomberg, Beatrice Bortolozzo, Felice Casson, Juergen Artner, Frederic Corbin, Robin Tharaldson, Hermann Bicherl, Vicky Zhang, Theo Colborn, Kurt Scheidl, Rupsha Raghuram, Charles Moore, Susan Jobling, Scott Belcher, Patricia Hunt, Gunther von Hagens, Badru Okidi, Hiroshi Sagae, Jeff Harris, Fred vom Saal, Craig Halgreen, Guido Brosius, Stefano Facco, Catia Bastioli, Ray Hammond, Margot Wallstrom, Elfriede Boote. Narrator: Mark Jefferis. (German, English, Italian, Dutch dialogue)

More Film

  • Chosen Ones Artwork

    The Yellow Affair Picks Up Swedish YA Sci-Fi/Thriller ‘Chosen Ones’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    GÖTEBORG, Sweden — Scandi sales shingle The Yellow Affair has added to its Göteborg lineup the Swedish series “The Chosen Ones” (“Det Utvalda”), currently playing on Swedish pubcaster SVT’s streaming service SVT Play. The short form sci-fi thriller stars a strong Swedish female cast of model-turned actress Frida Gustavsson (“Swoon”), singer/actress Amy Deasismont (“Gösta”, “My [...]

  • A still from LANCE by Marina

    'Lance': Film Review

    Late in the film “Lance,” a documentary that depicts the ascent and the crash of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, the subject recalls the disappearance of his lucrative sponsorships. These deals — with a massive market value and a perhaps more important intangible value of keeping him in the public eye as a figure of rectitude [...]

  • Palm Springs

    'Palm Springs' Breaks Sundance Record for Biggest Sale Ever -- By 69 Cents

    Andy Samberg’s “Palm Springs” has just broken the record for the biggest sale in the history of the Sundance film festival — by $0.69. A joint announcement on Monday from Hulu and indie distributor Neon confirmed the existential comedy was purchased for $17,500,000.69, in a sale brokered by UTA Independent Film Group. That figure exceeds [...]

  • The Truffle Hunters

    Sundance: Sony Pictures Classics Buys 'The Truffle Hunters'

    Sony Pictures Classics has acquired worldwide rights to “The Truffle Hunters” out of the Sundance Film Festival. The pact is for $1.5 million, according to an insider. The documentary follows a handful of men in Piedmont, Italy as the search for rare and expensive white Alba truffles. It’s a lifestyle that is off-the-grid, one without [...]

  • Saweetie62nd Annual Grammy Awards, Arrivals, Los

    When 'Birds of Prey' Came Calling, 'I Passed Out,' Says Saweetie

    “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” the R-rated girl gang-driven comic book actioner starring Margot Robbie and directed by Cathy Yan, bows in theaters Feb. 7 — the same date its equally female-driven soundtrack drops. And the latter even has its own trailer.  The film’s playlist includes tracks by Megan [...]

  • The Evening Hour

    'The Evening Hour': Film Review

    A small town already down on its luck receives a few fresh kicks in “The Evening Hour.” Based on Carter Sickels’ 2012 novel, this second narrative feature from director Braden King is more plot-driven than his first, 2011’s “Here,” a leisurely and slight, if pleasant, road-trip romance. Indeed, there may be a little more content [...]

  • Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Zainab Jah,

    'Farewell Amor': Film Review

    There are small, telling differences in the way each of the three long-separated main characters in “Farewell Amor” remembers the day of their reunion. Standing at JFK, awkwardly clutching a bunch of flowers to give to the wife and child he has not seen in 17 years, Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine from “The Chi”), [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content