The film opens on the Yangtze River, once one of the world’s most pristine waterways, now contaminated by bubbling metallic sludge. In China, labour has been outsourced by major US companies looking to cut costs and exploit environmental loopholes. Routinely, electronic waste is illegally discarded causing over 60% of the groundwater to be unfit for human contact.
Back in the US, Williams visits overflowing landfills, risen from a throwaway-culture where gadgets purposefully created with finite lifespans are insouciantly discarded by their users. Left to decay over time, the toxins inside leak into the ground proving to have debilitating health effects on unwitting members of the nearby communities.
Despite this despoliation, Williams’ film is one of hope, documenting young activists fighting to hold electronics brands accountable for their action and entrepreneurs who are working to develop more ethical and sustainable products for our future. With society’s scales positioned precariously on the tipping point between materialism and sustainability, Death by Design proves to be mandatory viewing.
“Both jaw-dropping and heartbreaking, Death by Design forces the viewer to reconsider their whole approach to technology” — Hannah Clugston, Aesthetica Magazine
Death by Design
Living in the digital age, we are bombarded with a constant stream of new-and-improved contraptions designed to enhance our lives. Giving us access to information, entertainment and means of communication never before possible, our digital devices are now integral fixtures of modern life. Belying this technological revolution however, is a seedy underbelly that companies are fighting to hide from most consumers.
In this penetrating, investigative documentary filmmaker Sue Williams uncovers the deadly environmental and health costs of the electronic devices we take for granted every day, asking us to confront the cost of our digital dependencies and our untenable obsession with incessantly upgrading our technological devices.