International Recognition for Asbestos Documentary
Against stiff competition, the French documentary: Asbestos: A Slow Death1 won first prize at the 7th International Festival of Environmental Cinema. The 55 minute French film, directed by Sylvie Deleule,2 reveals how asbestos stakeholders have profited at the expense of workers and the public in countries all over the world. The particular focus is on the manipulation by public relations experts, paid for by asbestos interests, of the French Government's asbestos policies. The links between asbestos industry groups in France, Canada and Brazil are exposed; interviews with Asbestos Institute (Canada) personnel, Canadian stakeholders and pro-asbestos politicians are featured. The largesse enjoyed by asbestos lobbyists is juxtaposed with the plight of asbestos victims. When asked what compensation he had received from a former employer, a Brazilian asbestos victim held up a pocket watch.
It is suitably ironic that the film festival, which took place in early June 2005, was held in Goias Velho, Brazil; Goias State is home to Brazil's biggest chrysotile (white asbestos) mine. The documentary includes an interview with Brazilian politician Ronaldo Caiado, who confirmed his receipt of funding from SAMA, an asbestos mining company in Goias. Up to the very last minute, Caiado tried to force the festival to cancel the showing of this film. He called the President of the Festival Jury and many VIPs at the festival and demanded the film be withdrawn; he went to court claiming that the film could damage his political reputation. All his efforts failed.
This documentary is a thoughtful and intelligent piece of work. It is also a cautionary tale which should be viewed as a warning to governments and consumers of the murderous lengths to which vested interests will go in their pursuit of profits.
June 30, 2005
1 The film is available with French, Portuguese and English soundtracks.