Malaysian short film on plastic pollution gets UN spotlight

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Plastic pollution is a problem in Malaysia. A 2019 study commissioned by WWF found that Malaysia has the highest annual per capita plastic consumption at 16.78 kg per person compared to China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Therefore, increasing efforts have been made to raise awareness of the harmful effects of single-use plastics.

The MeshMinds Foundation, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to empowering artists in the APAC region to focus on pressing social, environmental, and educational challenges, recently unveiled a video titled “Plastic,” which designed to encourage people to live sustainably and reduce plastic pollution.

“Plastic” was directed and produced by Malaysian filmmakers Philip Rom of Reservoir Productions and Sean Lin of Studio Birthplace for World Environment Day 2022, respectively. The video was developed in collaboration with the SEA Circular Project, an initiative of the UN Environment Program and was inspired by an online campaign by MeshMinds and the project.

The video features a young girl looking at the world through a plastic bottle, merging her imagination with reality to see how people’s relationship with single-use plastic can morph into something more sinister if left unchecked.

Every time she looks through the plastic bottle, the food that people and animals around her consume, as well as the surroundings like sand and beach, turn into plastic waste. At the end of the video, the campaign’s messages “Say no to single-use plastic” and “Together we can fight plastic pollution” are introduced while the girl drinks from a reusable water bottle instead of a plastic bottle.

Studio Birthplace said in a press release that “Plastic” gives audiences a glimpse of a horrific plastic-polluted future through the eyes of a child. With a visual narrative that’s “equally heartbreaking and warming,” the production agency hopes to represent the urgent need to fight plastic pollution by reducing single-use plastic and serve as a reminder that there’s only one earth. In addition, Studio Birthplace aims to touch the hearts of viewers with the ballad-like original soundtrack titled “Just A Dream” composed by Malaysian artist MKNK.

“Plastic” is endorsed by the UN Environment Program as it complements UNEA Resolution 5.2, when 175 member states unanimously agreed to develop a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution by the end of 2024. The film was produced in Sepang in accordance with Studio Birthplace’s sustainability practices, where the filmmakers sought to minimize the production’s impact on the environment by limiting single-use plastics on set. The CO2 emissions from transport during filming were also calculated and 150% offset by planting trees.

(Also read: Opinion: 5 ways to decarbonize your ad production)

“’Plastic’ underscores our indifference to the subject. Through the eyes of Aisya Sufiah, the very talented 10 year old actress, we see her represent a younger generation waking up and seeing this indifference and this mess and we see her journey from ignorance to awareness and to driving change said Lin of the studio birthplace.

“In order to survive and evolve, mankind had to learn by imitating the actions of other people. We learn by watching and then acting. Movies have the power to effect social change through impactful and compelling storytelling. With an all-Southeast Asian cast and crew, we can deepen engagement and create lasting behavioral change in the region’s youth audiences to take individual and collective action to end plastic pollution added Kay Vasey, founder of MeshMinds and executive producer of Plastic.

Meanwhile, Isabelle Louis, Deputy Regional Director of UNEP’s Asia-Pacific Office, said: “‘Plastic’ comes at the right time as it becomes more important to reach consumers and decision-makers with a message we can all relate to in our daily lives to integrate. I hope the film can be distributed to schools and allow children to be inspired by local sustainability advocates who are tackling the problem of plastic pollution.”

The production company, together with other brands such as Booking.com, is committed to more sustainability and environmental protection. Booking.com launched an art x food pop-up experience in Singapore in celebration of World Environment Day on June 5th, aiming to bring sustainability and environmental awareness to the fore as many begin to travel the world again. As part of the campaign, the brand has partnered with artists Mama Magnet and Human Spectrum and plant-based resto-bar Analogue Initiative to create an art installation and exclusive menu respectively. According to Booking.com previously, the installation asked visitors to be more aware of the footprints they leave behind and aimed to show visitors that they can help improve the environment.

Meanwhile, The Body Shop Malaysia also launched a workshop store concept called The Body Shop Activist Makers, encouraging shoppers to explore different sustainable products and discover how they can do their part to protect the earth. According to The Body Shop, this is the most sustainable store to date. The store features recycled fixtures and furniture, a refill station, and products made from recycled plastic packaging. In addition, it has been equipped with sustainable fittings made from reclaimed wood and recycled plastics.

Related articles:
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The Body Shop MY continues the sustainability discussion with a new interactive store
Throwback to Earth Day 2022: Brands are committed to sustainability

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