MVFF: Submission (B)

Submission, from Sweeden, is this year’s An Inconvenient Truth. And if the filmmakers and interviewees are to be believed, the threat of industrial chemicals accumulating in our bodies may well seal the fate of the human race (and others) well before global warming destroys the planet. The film is accurately described as more of an essay than a documentary. These screenings at the Mill Valley Film Festival were the film’s North American premiere.

The film begins with  veteran filmmaker Stefan Jarl deciding to have his own blood tested for foreign substances. He finds more than 200. It then proceeds through intercut interviews with credible scientists from around the world on what it all means. In parallel, Jarl recruits pregnant actress Eva Röse for a similar experiment, ultimately to make the case that most of these chemicals are passed from mothers to their children through the placenta, even before birth, and breast milk.

The movie is designed to scare us, and it’s quite successful. For me, the big takeaways are (a) this is a remarkably recent phenomenon affecting us (cumulatively) for only the past three generations, (b) because many of the substances are global, persistent and bioaccumulative, we’re on course for a devastating impact on our entire race in just the next two or three generations, and (c) unlike global warming, virtually nothing is being done to address the problem.

Jarl makes his case quite skillfully, building the intensity of dire consequences over the course of 87 minutes. By the end, you may agree that this is one of the most depressing films you’ve seen. That’s in part because unlike An Inconvenient Truth, which convinced us to trade in our Jeep Cherokee for a Prius, the film doesn’t give us much hope or offer a call to action. Although most of the interviews aren’t in English (but are subtitled), this is an important film, which I do recommend.

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