Death by Design

Documentary Films | 2016 | 73 minutes

Stranger Says:

At the outset of the film, director Sue Williams takes viewers to a milk-colored Yangtze River, where metallic muck sticks to oars and old women beg for clean drinking water. This is very much our doing. There's probably a small voice in every person's head reminding us that the devices we chuck out every couple of years must have sordid production practices on the other side of an ocean, but that voice gets drowned out by a culture constantly hawking the new iPhone 6. Not here. Death by Design takes viewers from the Yangtze to Silicon Valley, where electronics production once poisoned factory workers, and back to China, where all that work—and all the waste—has been outsourced by major US companies looking to cut corners on labor and environmental practices. Everyone should see this film and learn what a "corporate mortality file" is. (SYDNEY BROWNSTONE)

SIFF Says:

How many electronic devices do you have? How often do you upgrade your phone? What do you do with your old electronic devices? The answers may not mean much to the average consumer, but they point to a worldwide disaster that is bigger than any one person’s relation to their smartphone. The cataclysmic effects of massive industrialization are impossible to ignore: Companies discharge waste into lakes and rivers, poisoning populations that can do little to fight back; employees at manufacturing plants suffer from poor working conditions and punishingly low pay, leading many to attempt suicide; defunct electronic equipment is hazardously deposited in rural Asian communities, leading to enormous amounts of pollution. Death by Design seeks to open your eyes to the environmental and human cost of the Information Age by checking in on experts and civilians alike around the world, most notably chronicling lawsuits in Silicon Valley and New York that sought damages from cancer-causing companies, and exclusive footage from the inside of Foxconn, a city-sized production base in Shenzhen, China. But all is not necessarily lost, as the documentary spotlights such companies as iFixit, the world’s largest online repair manual, run by two “reluctant capitalists,” and Dublin-based iAMECO, which assembles computers out of wood and other recycled materials.

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Film Credits
Sue Williams
Ted Smith, Ma Jun, Kyle Wiens, Luke Soules, Paul Maher
SIFF 2016