By Rob Blackwelder
Call it a do-it-yourself documentary. Inspired by her objections to new vinyl siding recently put on her parents' house, filmmaker Judith Helfand (Peabody winner for the autobiographical "A Healthy Baby Girl," about her own battle with cancer) set out to catalog the very real — and very hushed-up — dangers of PVC, the most prevalent kind of plastic in the world. The result is an amusing, irreverent but resonant expose in which she visits every step in the pollution- and chemical-laden manufacturing and disposal of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is used to make everything from water mains to Barbie dolls to medical supplies to Habitat For Humanity quick-build houses.
Helfand learns that while PVC products are relatively inert, the cancer rates are enormous among anyone who works or lives near the chemical plants that create the stuff, that the dioxin fumes when it burns are almost instantly lethal, and that PVC cost-prohibitive to recycle. She also runs afoul of the Vinyl Institute, the industry's spin organization of PR slicksters who have, since 1971, helped bury definitive studies proving the chemicals dangerous.
Entertaining in its sardonic style (the sometimes awkward Helfand always carries a piece of her parents' siding with her), the film gives the industry its rather laughable say, but presents comprehensible science making a persuasive case that PVC chemicals are now getting into the atmosphere, groundwater and the food chain. As for Helfand's parents, convincing them to redo their house in an eco-friendly alternative siding is an uphill battle.
*** out of ****
(92m | NR)