A distressing overview of the consequences of our addiction to fast fashion, True Cost might suggest another exposé of corporate greed versus environmental well-being. While that is certainly in evidence, nytimes.com correspondent Jeannette Catsoulis points to the film’s real thrust – exploitation which is presented through Director Andrew Morgan’s gentle, humane investigations.
Garment workers subsisting on less than $3 a day recount beatings by bosses who resent unionization and requests for higher wages. At the same time, a factory owner in Bangladesh — where the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building caused more than 1,000 deaths — tells us candidly that when retailers squeeze him, he must squeeze his employees. “There are a lot of worse things they could be doing,” a former sourcing manager for the Joe Fresh fashion brand says about these unfortunates, echoing an all-too-familiar justification.
From the environmental angle, Morgan takes us to Haiti where millions of tons of our castoff clothing have clogged landfills and destroyed the local clothing industry. Exposing those who are paying for our bargains, Morgan dives to the bottom of the supply chain, to the garment factories of Cambodia and Bangladesh and the cotton fields of India. Here he links ecological and health calamities to zealous pesticide use.
Offering few solutions beyond a single fair-trade fashion company — whose serene interludes compete with sickening recordings of Black Friday shopping riots and so-called clothing haul videos — True Cost stirs and saddens but a documentary that badly needed to be made.