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Malaysian short film on plastic pollution receives UN spotlight

Malaysian short film on plastic pollution receives 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 use, at 16.78 kg per person compared to China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. As such, there have been increasing efforts in raising awareness about the harmful effects of single use plastic.

The MeshMinds Foundation, a non-profit arts organisation that aims to empower artists in the APAC region to focus on pressing social, environmental, and educational challenges, recently unveiled a video titled "Plastik", which aims to encourage people to live sustainably and reduce plastic pollution. 

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

The video features a young girl viewing the world through a plastic bottle letting her imagination blend with reality to witness how humans' relationship with single-use plastic may turn into something more sinister if left unchecked.

Each time she looks through the plastic bottle, the food that people and animals around her consume, as well as the surrounding environment such as the sand and beach, turn into plastic waste. As the video draws to an end, the campaign's message "say no to single-use plastic" and "together, we can beat plastic pollution" are introduced, as the girl is seen drinking from a reusable water bottle instead of a plastic bottle. 

Studio Birthplace said in a press statement that "Plastik" gives audiences a glimpse of a terrifying plastic-polluted future seen through the eyes of a child. With a visual narrative both "heart wrenching and warming in equal measure", the production agency hopes to champion the urgent need to beat plastic pollution by cutting down on single-use plastic, and serve as a reminder that there is only one Earth. In addition, Studio Birthplace seeks to tug at the heartstrings of audiences with the ballad-like original soundtrack, titled "Just A Dream", which was composed by Malaysian artist, MKNK. 

"Plastik" is supported by the UN Environment Programme as it amplifies the UNEA 5.2 resolution 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 line with Studio Birthplace's sustainability practices, where the filmmakers sought to minimise their impact of production to the environment by restricting single-use plastics on set. Carbon emissions from transportations during filming were also calculated and compensated 150% through tree-planting.

(Read also: Opinion: 5 ways to decarbonise your advertising production)

“'Plastik' highlights our indifference towards the issue. 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 mess, and we see her journey from being unaware to becoming aware and driving change,” said Studio Birthplace's Lin. 

"To survive and evolve, humankind has had to learn by imitating the actions of other humans. We learn by watching and then doing. Films have the power to effect social change through impactful and compelling storytelling. We hope that in producing a short film with a fully Southeast Asian cast and crew we can deepen engagement and catalyse long-lasting behaviour change amongst the region’s youth audience to take individual and collective action to end plastic pollution,” added Kay Vasey, founder of MeshMinds and executive producer of "Plastik". 

Meanwhile, Isabelle Louis, deputy regional director of UNEP Asia Pacific Office, said: "'Plastik' is released at a timely moment, as it is becoming increasingly important to reach the consumers and the decision-makers with a message that we can all relate to in our day-to-day lives. I hope the film can be distributed to schools and allow children to be inspired by local sustainability advocates who are addressing the plastic pollution problem." 

The production company joins other brands such as Booking.com in championing greater sustainability and protection of the environment. Booking.com launched an art x food pop-up experience in Singapore to celebrate World Environment Day on 5 June, which sought to bring sustainability and environmental consciousness to the fore as many start to travel the world again. As part of the campaign, the brand partnered with artists Mama Magnet and Human Spectrum and plant-based resto-bar Analogue Initiative to create an art installation and an exclusive menu respectively. According to Booking.com previously, the installation challenged visitors to be more conscious of the imprint they leave behind, and aimed to show visitors that they have a hand to play in bettering the environment.

Meanwhile, the Body Shop Malaysia also launched a workshop store concept titled "The Body Shop Activist Makers" that encourages shoppers to explore different sustainable products and discover how they can play their part in protecting the Earth. According to The Body Shop then, this is its most sustainable store yet to date. The store features recycled fixtures and furniture, a refill station, as well as products made from its recycled plastic packaging. Additionally, it has been outfitted with sustainable fixtures made from reclaimed wood and recycled plastics.

Related articles: 
Study: A whopping 86% of consumers now value travel sustainability
Booking.com celebrates sustainability with light installation and plant-based menu
The Body Shop MY walks the sustainability talk with new interactive store
Earth Day round up 2022: Brands walk the talk for sustainability

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