Out Of Plastic looks at a problem that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Set in the Balearic Islands, the documentary confronts us with the profound impact plastic pollution is having on our lives and on the environment.
Close-up Culture spoke to director Line Hadsbjerg about being inspired by Nelson Mandela, what led her to make this film and the future of plastic pollution.
Q: While researching for this interview, I discovered you are also a UEA (University of East Anglia) alumni. Can you talk about your experiences at UEA and living in England?
A: I studied my post-graduate at UEA in International Development Studies. It was a contrast to three years of undergraduate studies in Cape Town, and six months travelling through India prior to arriving. The course work was great, and allowed me to straddle my “multiple identities” – being Danish, but South African at heart.
Q: I also discovered that you are a remarkable person who has often worked for selfless and meaningful causes. Who do you feel you are wired this way?
A: I grew up in South Africa, a country of systemic injustice at the time. It was a childhood of priviledge, however my parents were very liberal and actively challenged the status quo of the Apartheid system. In hindsight, I believe this political consciousness laid the foundation of everything I do today. The legacy of Nelson Mandela continues to inspire me.
Q: What led you to make ‘Out of Plastic’ and to focus on plastic pollution in Balearic Islands?
A: I love the ocean, but living on an island in the Mediterranean, I saw a constant increase of plastic waste on our beaches. I wanted to do something. So together with my husband Philipp Baier, we started a non-profit organisation called Cleanwave.org – which sets out to protect and preserve our natural environment, by offering sustainable alternatives to plastic. Access to drinking water on the Balearic Islands is a challenge – we are all dependent on plastic water bottles – so we have set up a growing network of water refill stations across Mallorca and Ibiza, where people can refill their sustainable water bottles for free.
As a documentary film producer, it seemed to be a natural next-step to document the plastic situation in the Mediterranean – it is important that people see what is happening in their own environment.
Q: In the trailer, one person says there might be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. Were you shocked by the extent of the pollution or did you go into this documentary expecting the worst?
A: Completely shocked. The reality of plastic pollution is so much bigger, more complex and more critical than we can even comprehend.
Q: If there is a positive of plastic pollution, it is that it is visual and therefore hard for people to deny or ignore. I also imagine that helped you when constructing the visual element of this documentary?
A: Plastic is part of our daily lives. We live with it, we use it, all our food is wrapped in it, it is virtually impossible to escape it completely. So in terms of gaining visuals, yes there was plenty to see – but we are almost blinded by the sheer quantity!
But the truth is that plastic does not disappear, it breaks down into microscopic pieces that we call microplastics, that pollute our landscapes and oceans at all levels. Trying to capture the sheer magnitude and implication of this nearly “invisible” plastic pollution in our environment and in our lives was a real challenge.
Q: How did the production go for this film? Did you have any stumbling blocks or pushback along the way?
A: I realised early on that I needed to produce this film with a team of visual artists, each of whom specialised in their own fields of photography. When it came to filming interviews and the point of contact between plastic and people, the Mallorquin filmmaker Pep Bonet, was the true Master.
However, I wanted the island to speak for herself, and the experience and patient skill of nature photographer Francisco Marquez can clearly be seen in the film. And then of course all the underwater shots, taken by the award winning underwater photographer/filmmaker Manu San Felix based in Formentera, opened another beautiful dimension in the film. Not to mention the music composition, editing and sound by Jose Bautista – this film is the result of incredible talent coming together. The strength of the film is the team.
Were their blocks along the way? No, no blocks. Some challenges. Some lessons learned. But generally a positive story, receives a positive response.
Q: In the trailer, we hear from voice like Debora Morrison (Director of Conservation, Palma Aquarium). How did you go about selecting voices and interviewing people for the film?
A: I wanted to portray the multiple voices of the people of the Balearic Islands to give an all-rounded perspective of the plastic issue. I strongly believe that you need to bring all players to the table in order to find a solution, and the purpose of the film was to do just that. So I interviewed scientists, environmental activists, politicians, fishermen and industry leaders; and ultimately, at the end of the day, the message shared was the same – everyone seeks to preserve their home and leave a better world for their children.
Q: I was happy to hear that film addresses solutions and tangible actions to be taken against plastic pollution. Are you optimistic about the future?
A: “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come” – Victor Hugo.
I see an increasing desire and will to collaborate and confront the challenges of climate change. Plastic pollution plays a part in the issues of climate change, and despite the greed and often the lack of vision and integrity of some leaders, I see a civil movement of eco-pioneers who are paving the way towards a more sustainable society. When we understand our deep connection to the Earth and its wellbeing, we awaken a desire to restore and preserve our natural environment – that is the side of history I choose to be on.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
A: Apart from strengthening the growth and expansion of Cleanwave.org – my next project is a series of documentary films that share the stories of passionate individuals who have pioneered innovative solutions towards the environment and have created radical change in the way we relate to the Earth, and thereby, each other.