Pesticide Poisoning in POISONING PARADISE documentary

Pesticide poisoning on the seemingly idyllic island of Hawaii takes centre focus in new documentary POISONING PARADISE

With The Beast From The East and Storm Emma currently battling most of the UK, it’s easy to see why Hawaii is on the bucket list for most. But behind this seemingly idyllic world of sun, sea and sand is a serious environmental issue affecting the island and its residents, one in which groundbreaking documentary POISONING PARADISE hopes to highlight.

Focusing on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, POISONING PARADISE looks at the ecological dangers of pesticide poisoning and its environmental impact on the surrounding areas. The 75 minute documentary features interviews with local residents, environmental activists, scientific experts and healthcare professionals who reveal the dangers of intensive and continuous pesticide applications, as well as the ongoing struggle to advance new legislation governing the fate of the island.

In an attempt to diversify an economy that was overly reliant on tourism, the issues surrounding POISONING PARADISE came about when policymakers in Hawaii and Washington, D.C. encouraged biotech companies to utilize Kauai’s favourable climate and fertile soil to test genetically engineered seeds and crops. But as more and more residents began to develop health issues, the communities surrounding the experimental test sites began to question the safety of the pesticides which sprayed upwind of their homes, schools, hospitals and shorelines.

It is here where POISONING PARADISE really succeeds in driving home to the seriousness of the issue. Focusing on the effect of the pesticides, the documentary makes good use of environmental activists and scientific experts to turn otherwise complex scientific issues into easy-to-understand explanations. The film also attempts to expose the collusion between federal and state legislators, making a connection between large campaign donations given by the biotech companies and politicians reluctance to pass new legislation.

Yet while the film goes some way to highlighting the issue, many of the tactics used in the documentary dilute the underlying message. The decision to use cheesy stock photos and acted video sequences which show children and their families coughing and spluttering is unnecessary and actually feels a little like scaremongering at times. The constant overhead shots of the experimental test sites also becomes tiresome after a while and the lack of footage gives the film a distinctive amateur feel.

That said, POISONING PARADISE succeeds in its attempt to create awareness and effect change. While Kauai’s plight may seem like a local issue, the use of pesticides, the future of food and sustainable farming practices remain a worldwide issue. The film also ends with a powerful message which appeals to us, the people, to bring about much needed change rather than relying on the politicians to resolve this very serious issue.

3 out of 5 stars

POISONING PARADISE screened at the Manchester Film Festival on 3 March 2018.