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Tapped (DVD Review)

16 Aug, 2010 By: Mike Clark

$19.98 DVD
Not rated.

Ecological/health concerns can turn even the strictest adherent to jurisprudence into a monetary vigilante. So whenever I see a few score plastic bottles scattered over the grass next to a freeway — or worse, on the shore of an ocean, river or tributary — I think of what it would be like to apply the Wallace Berry Viva Villa! treatment to perpetrators, the one that so impressed me when I first saw the movie as a child. This is when you smother the transgressors in honey, tie them down and then yell, “y’all come” to the nearest army of killer ants.

Calm down, Mike. Director Stephanie Soechtig is far more cool-headed with her polemic, which has to do with a lot more than litter. But nearly all of it has to do with the scourge of drinking water out of plastic bottles — a heavily marketed habit that started in about 1989 after the first wave of bottled water (Perrier in glass, ca 1973) ran its course.

It’s one thing to carry gin or water in a plastic container when you don’t want the contents breaking in your suitcase or on the passenger seat as the Highway Patrol approaches. But water? — think about it. The process a) takes the place of what comes out of the tap for a much lower tab; b) is not regulated anywhere to the degree that tap water is; c) consumes lots of oil to manufacture (all those plastic bottles) before we even count the petrol it takes to transport and recycle these containers. Not that, of course, more than 50% of Americans have curbside recycling in the first place — so if a water bottle gets tossed while in transit or on somebody’s nature hike, good luck.

This is followed by questions over d) bottle component BPA, or chemical Bisphenol A, whose alleged toxicity is still part of a hot debate; and e) the suspect health problems and birth defects — think notable statistical spike — suffered by those who live around the Corpus Christi, Texas, plant where huge numbers of bottles are manufactured. Less speculative are the corporations that pump water out of local communities without offering any remuneration — which is especially nice when there’s a drought and consumers are ordered to curtail their own use while the water companies are not.

A lot of the material here was previously covered in Flow: For Love of Water, but the presentation in this one-sided but convincing exposé seems more dynamic with its trenchant visuals (ill people; Oceanside views that look like landfill; oceanic water samples littered with chunks of plastic) that are hard to shake.

Reps from Nestle, Coca-Cola and Pepsi (the big three of targets here) were not made available to the filmmakers, though an FDA spokesperson and a couple reps from the bottling industry try to turn in professional responses when confronted with some discomforting questions. One in particular — a vice president of the American Beverage Association — has that look on his face we’ve seen before. It’s the one that says, “I was always thought I had a good job – until yesterday.”

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