OUTPUT CINE – David against Goliath, a simple lawyer who terrace a multinational company: american cinema is so fond of films where the power of justice comes to the end of the forces of money, as in Dark Waters (out this Wednesday 26 February), the true story of the scandal of Teflon that has shaken the giant of the chemical industry DuPont at the beginning of the Twenty-first century.
This long case brought before the u.s. courts, began in 1998 when Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), a lawyer from the large firm Taft Law of Cincinatti (Ohio), receives the visit of a farmer, a neighbor of his grandmother in Parkersburg (west Virginia), where he grew up. The farmer explains to him that in his corner of the campaign once idyllic, it has lost 190 cows become sick over the years: animals, previously sweet and docile, become extremely aggressive; that their skin is covered with sores, their eyes are rimmed with red, their teeth are blackened, and a drool of white flowing through their muzzle.
The lawyer in the other camp
In his prestigious law firm, Robert Bilott was in the habit of advise and defend companies, helping the big companies of the chemical industry to come into compliance with the new environmental legislation came into force in the 70’s. But, after a tour in Parkersburg and have visited his grand-mother, he decides to pass to the other side and deal with the situation of the farmer.
Releases toxic Teflon
It will not be long to discover that the cause of the problem is of a serious pollution: toxic waste in the river near Parkersburg, factory DuPont, as the main employer of the region, who manufactures including the famous Teflon, an anti-adhesive discovered in 1951 and used especially in frying pans. Supported by his boss (Tim Robbins) and his wife (Anne Hathaway), the lawyer will engage in a battle of long-term, in which he will risk his career, his family, and even his own health…
Teflon, Nylon, Kevlar, Lycra: all these chemicals invented in the Twentieth century by DuPont are part of the daily life of billions of individuals. The problem in the scandal of the Teflon is that one of the components of this product, the PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), was highly toxic and can cause various cancers, serious diseases or deformities of new-born babies. The film shows that DuPont was aware of these dangers and had waited until 2013 to forego the use.
The case of the Teflon lasted from 1998 to 2017, from the regional level (west Virginia) at the national level, with the various legal steps that a group action (“class action”) on behalf of the 70,000 residents of Parkersburg, which has forced DuPont to pay $ 70 million in 2004 and 671 million in 2017 for the 3,500 most recent folders.
Aged, grossi, this is a Mark Ruffalo very convincing which embodies this counsel Robert Bilott, pugnacious and courageous, who has devoted to this case nearly 20 years of his life and his career. The actor is known to the general public to have interpreted Dr. Bruce Banner, alias the Hulk, the green giant, in the various Avengers in recent years. He was also one of the main actors of the Spotlight, Oscar for the best movie 2016, including the scenario was not far from Dark Waters as he told the true story of the investigation of the newspaper The Boston Globe that revealed the scandal of the case of pedophilia covered up by the catholic Church in the early 2000s.
But Mark Ruffalo is not an actor in this film. He is the co-producer, after having read an article telling about this whole affair and published in January 2016 in the weekly magazine of the New York Times: “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” (“The lawyer who became the worst nightmare of DuPont”). “The real subject of the film, it is the ability of one to move the lines –with the help of others,” he says. “What we said Dark Waters, is that we need each other. Nobody else will do the job in our place. Nobody else is going to try to make the world a better place. We need to get it all together”.
The director Todd Haynes chosen by Mark Ruffalo
And it was he who went to look for Todd Haynes to bring this true story to the screen. Yet this was not the kind of film director, noted in recent years for his flamboyant musical films (The Velvet Goldmine on the glam-rock, I’m Not There dedicated to Bob Dylan) or its melodramas retro (return to Paradise on a bride model of the 50’s who falls in love with her gardener black, Carol telling the gay love of two women in the 50’s).
“From the outset, this was for me the greatest challenge: to be faithful to the facts and show respect for each character, taking into account its uniqueness, while making the story accessible and captivating to the viewer,” explains the director.
His film is an effective, documented, engaged in a cause deemed just, like many others before him, recounting the battle from a vigilante solitaire (lawyer, journalist, or other) against a powerful and corrupt: The Verdict (1982), The Idealist (The Rainmaker, 1997), Prejudice (A Civil Action, 1998) Révélations (The Insider, 1999), Erin Brockovich (2000), L’affaire Josey Aimes (North Country, 2005), Michael Clayton (2007), Promised Land (2012) in particular.
Synthetic molecules created by the chemical industry
Beyond this scandal, Teflon, Dark Waters is a sobering –and shiver– on the tens of thousands of synthetic molecules created by the chemical industry (to agriculture, drugs, petrochemicals in particular) since a century and a half, and many of which are little or not biodegradable.
“This movie is a sizzling news in relation to what is happening today in the political sphere, in the environmental sphere and in the legal sphere,” says Todd Haynes. “The commitments in terms of improving the quality of the water and the air, or in favour of endangered species, climate change, or have never been respected. So we have to deal with these issues at the present time”.