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Watch: Guts, Noah Hutton and Taylor Hess’s Short Doc on the Feminist, Anti-Colonial Environmental Lab, CLEAR

“Reproducing the status quo is deeply political because the status quo is crappy,” says the Newfoundland-based Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research’s Max Liboiron in Taylor Hess and Noah Hutton’s sharp and inspiring short doc, Guts, currently streaming at The Atlantic (and embedded above). At CLEAR, Liboiron’s work is both deeply political as well as practical. Her environmental science examining the effect of plastic pollutants on animal and human environments and food chains poses a more-than-rhetorical challenge to mainstream ideas around recycling and environmental cleanup.

From The Atlantic:

In the documentary, she asks a group of well-intentioned recyclers to look closely at their individual consumer behaviors. The data on waste management, she says, suggest that recycling doesn’t do much to mitigate the problem of plastic pollution. “The only mode of attack is to deal with a heavy decrease in the production of plastics, as opposed to dealing with them after they’ve already been created,” she tells the group. “Your consumer behaviors do not matter. Not on the scale of the problem … It’s the cessation of production that will make the big-scale changes.” She also advocates for removing subsidies from oil.

Guts the documentary began when filmmaker Hutton attended a scientific conference where Liboiron spoke. As he tells Emily Buder at The Atlantic, “I kept hearing some of the sharpest, smartest critiques of [scientific] status-quo assumptions I’ve ever heard. She engaged with other’s viewpoints totally empathetically, but would then forcefully challenge their assumptions in a way that wasn’t personal. It was completely intoxicating and invigorating, like a voice from the future.” Hutton and filmmaker Taylor Hess — a Filmmaker Contributing Editor — travelled then to Newfoundland, where they became not just directors but also participants in the CLEAR’s’ “citizen science” experiment. As Hess told Buder, “Max and the CLEAR lab have invented these brilliant, cheeky devices that allow anyone, anywhere, to conduct microplastics testing on their waterways for readily available or cheap materials.”

In a packed 13 minutes, Hess and Hutton’s completed film traces the essentials of Liboiron’s feminist, anti-colonial practice while also capturing Liboiron as a unique, iconoclastic and inspirational figure. In order to make the film, and properly understand CLEAR’s practice, Liboiron required Hutton and Hess to become full lab members — “we often had to put the cameras aside,” says Hess. The result is a short doc with real sense of intimacy as well as an alignment between the filmmaking and the subject’s environmental science practice.

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