A documentary that changed my habit.

There is one documentary that changed my habit, Plastic Ocean https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zrn4-FfbXw. It is a documentary film created by Craig Leeson and Jo Ruxton. Our company was sponsoring their official distribution in Hong Kong, so I was one of the lucky ones who could watch the film when it was first introduced in 2014. By then, issues around plastic in the ocean were not widely discussed, and only a few of us (even the ones who perceive ourselves as environmentally conscious), did not realise the magnitude and urgency of these issues.

The film made us discuss the issues openly, first how shocked we were, and then moving on to brainstorming on the actions that we could potentially take. Colleagues in our Singapore office even formed a voluntary group to tackle the issues in our office and life. I started to think twice before using any plastic and try to use less whenever I could although I should confess that I still use plastic quite a lot.

The movie was very timely and engaging, but the global success that the film saw needs more than that. Since the film was launched, it was shown more than 1,200 times in 70 countries, and subtitles in 15 languages were added. More importantly, it did make business and government leaders in the region understood the issues, has managed to create a partnership with 50+ organisations since the movie was introduced. I think the film directors understood the right ingredients in persuading people and influencing their behaviors as outlined below:

  1. Emotion – Speak to the heart:
    The movie is simply beautiful. The scenes remind us of how beautiful our mother nature is. It shows pristine images of the magnificent ocean with wild sea animals, full of life and energy. But it also shows heart-breaking and shocking images of animals dying with plastic in their bellies or suffering from plastic hoop smothering their throat etc. They stirred audiences’ strong emotions.
  2. Brain – Persuade with hard facts:
    The movie does not stop there, for our sceptic neighbours. The producers engaged multiple scientists and experts on the ground from the very beginning of their journey. It made their story and argument more credible and unbiased. They also added an interesting trick in the movie. While you are watching it, they continuously show you how many plastic bottles were thrown away during that time, and you see the number grow very fast as the movie goes. The number in the face made me realise the seriousness and urgency of the issues.
  3. Impact – Know your audience: They understood that not everybody has a long attention span to watch the 100-minute movie in English. Once the film was distributed, the producers focused on creating a shorter 20-minute version of the documentary and get sub-titles in 17 different languages to make the movie a lot more accessible. They also specifically target the young generations by arranging screenings and discussions sessions at schools across the globe.
  4. Call to action. Show me the way: I think this could be the weakest part of the movie, if I have to criticize a bit. Because the film was so successful in making me feel that I should do something right now, I also felt a little frustrated by lack of ways for me to make immediate and meaningful impacts. However, it was natural, as the discussions on these issues were still nascent (at least to my knowledge), so the suggested solutions were quite aspirational or not scalable as they were. The movie ends with a somewhat honest statement that we need everybody’s ideas and actions to address these issues. The Plastic Ocean foundation(https://plasticoceans.org) is following up on this by partnering with more than 50 organisations to foster innovation and collaboration.

Now, do you feel like to watching this documentary as well? It is available at Netflix! Enjoy!


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