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‘The True Cost’ paints portrait of exploitation


The True Cost 01On Saturday at 1:00 p.m., the Second Annual Bonita Springs International Film Festival will screen a distressing overview of the consequences of our addiction to fast fashion. “The True Cost might suggest another exposé of corporate greed versus environmental well-being,” writes reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis for The New York Times. “That is certainly in evidence, but under the gentle, humane investigations of its director, Andrew Morgan, what emerges most strongly is a portrait of exploitation that ought to make us more nauseated than elated over those $20 jeans.”

True enough, the price of all clothing has been decreasing for decades. Behind the labels, however, the human and environmental costs have grown The True Cost 10dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on this untold story and asks us to consider who really pays the price for our clothing?

Take cotton, for example. More than 90% of the cotton fiber used to make clothing is now genetically modified. The True Cost 11Genetically-modified cotton uses vast amounts of water as well as chemicals. “Cotton production is now responsible for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use,” state the filmmakers on their website. “As our skin is the largest organ, these chemicals are passed into the bloodstream of the people wearing these The True Cost 14clothes.” The impacts of these chemicals on both the land and human health are largely untested and only just now being questioned by those working in the industry.

Leather production is also increasingly linked to a variety of environmental and human health hazards. The True Cost 09The amount of feed, land, water and fossil fuels used to raise livestock for leather production come at a huge cost to the health of our planet. “In addition to raising the livestock needed, the leather tanning process is among the most toxic in all of the fashion supply chain,” note the filmmakers. “Workers are exposed to harmful chemicals The True Cost 05on the job, while the waste generated pollutes natural water sources leading to increased disease for surrounding areas.” In fact, studies have found that leather tannery workers are 20 to 50% more at risk of cancer than the general population.

The True Cost 16Compounding the problem is the exponential rate at which we purchase and dispose of articles of clothing each year. While clothing was historically something we have held onto for a long time and even passed down to family members and friends, as the price of clothing has fallen, people now view the things we wear as disposable.

The True Cost 13“The world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year,” state the filmmakers. “This is 400% more than the amount we consumed just two decades ago. The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year. That adds up to more than 11 million tons of textile waste from the U.S. alone.”

The True Cost 04And the human factor in the garment industry is too big to ignore as well. As more and more stories come to light, we consistently see the exploitation of cheap labor and the violation of workers’, women’s, and human rights in many developing countries across the world.

The True Cost 03“To learn who is paying for our bargains, Mr. Morgan dives to the bottom of the supply chain, to the garment factories of Cambodia and Bangladesh and the cotton fields of India, where he links ecological and health calamities to zealous pesticide use,” Catsoulis adds. “Garment workers subsisting on less than $3 a day recount beatings by bosses who resent The True Cost 06unionization and requests for higher wages. At the same time, a factory owner in Bangladesh — where the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building caused more than 1,000 deaths — tells us candidly that when retailers squeeze him, he must squeeze his employees.”

The True Cost 07Filmed in countries all over the world, from the brightest runways to the darkest slums, and featuring interviews with the world’s leading influencers including Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva, The True Cost is an unprecedented project that invites us on an eye opening journey around the world and into the The True Cost 08lives of the many people and places behind our clothes. “The True Cost stirs and saddens,” concludes Catsoulis. “Not least because it’s unlikely to reach the young consumers most in need of its revelations.”

January 27, 2017.

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