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By Chris Gore | December 10, 2001

This film has not yet been reviewed. Check back later for the complete review here on Synopsis: Activist filmmaker Judith Helfand, who explored the devastating effects of DES on her own body in A Healthy Baby Girl (1997 Sundance Film Festival), is not one to look the other way when a potential toxin gets too close to home. So when her parents affix vinyl siding to their suburban Long Island abode, she gets suspicious. Armed with a big blue slab from the home improvement project, Helfand marches straight to the centers of vinyl production to get the skinny on this seemingly harmless plastic, used not only to make cheap, durable siding, but also flooring, toys, credit cards, I-V bags–you name it.

Taking a personal, comedic approach, directors Helfand and Daniel Gold brilliantly link unlikely stories and characters across continents, race, and class to uncover the impact of vinyl manufacturing and disposal on the atmosphere, the food chain, and humans. It’s not a pretty picture. In Lake Charles, Louisiana, giant petrochemical plants cough out vinyl by-products, while residents suffering from multiple health problems are forced to leave their homes due to groundwater contamination. In Venice, Italy, vinyl company executives stand accused of manslaughter for knowingly exposing their workforce to deadly chemical levels. Ironically, industry PR dollars elevate vinyl’s public profile, promoting the message that it in fact “saves lives.”

Using Emily Hubley’s and Jeremiah Dickey’s lyrical animations to playfully decode complex concepts like bio-accumulation, Blue Vinyl powerfully questions the assumption that environmental health risk is an inevitable component of progress. And, as Helfand scours for a benign, affordable alternative to her parents’ indestructible siding, we’re artfully reminded just how personal the political really is.

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