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Blue Vinyl

Filmmakers Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold use humor and chutzpah in their search for the environmental truth about vinyl.

A printer-friendly version of this page 97 minutes
Directed by Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold
Produced by Daniel B. Gold, Judith Helfand and Julia D. Parker
Cinematography by Daniel B. Gold
Animation by Emily Hubley

"Frightening and funny! Blue Vinyl has left audiences lingering in the hallways for hours to debate and question." Sharon Waxman, The Washington Post
With humor, chutzpah and a piece of vinyl siding firmly in hand, Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Judith Helfand and co-director and award-winning cinematographer Daniel B. Gold set out in search of the truth about polyvinyl chloride (PVC), America's most popular plastic. From Long Island to Louisiana to Italy, they unearth the facts about PVC and its effects on human health and the environment.

Back at the starter ranch, Helfand coaxes her terribly patient parents into replacing their vinyl siding on the condition that she can find a healthy, affordable alternative (and it has to look good!).

A detective story, an eco-activism doc, and a rollicking comedy, BLUE VINYL puts a human face on the dangers posed by PVC at every stage of its life cycle, from factory to incinerator. Consumer consciousness and the "precautionary principle" have never been this much fun.

Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2004     Copyright Date: 2002
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-097-9     VHS ISBN: 1-59458-030-8

"Funny and irreverent! One of Sundance's best documentaries."
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"Blue Vinyl is a kind of ecological detective story that provides humor along with information...[a] strongly recommended addition to school, college, and community library collections."
The Midwest Book Review

"That rare muckraking film with a sense of humor."
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

"Directors Helfand and Daniel Gold brilliantly link unlikely stories and characters across continents, race, and class."
Caroline Libresco, Sundance Film Festival.

"Scary and hilarious!"
Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

"The Green Building Movement may have just acquired its first cult film."
Environmental Building News

"Blue Vinyl hits your psyche like a ten-ton brick. If you care at all about the future you'll see this film."
Theo Colborn, author, Our Stolen Future

"Blue Vinyl is highly recommended for upper level high school students, colleges and the general public. School media centers, college/university libraries and public libraries would benefit by having this video in their collections."
Ronald E. Saskowski, Educational Media Reviews Online

"The kind of movie you could name an ice cream after."
Ben Cohen, President,, Co-Founder of Ben and Jerry's

"Kudos to Helfand for her five-year struggle to get her parents -- and us -- to see the light."
Now Toronto

"This excellent documentary is well-filmed and edited. Helfand and Gold have used some very interesting techniques to capture the story...Sound is excellent and choice of music is eclectic. [Blue Vinyl] supports any number of inquiries into the role of science and industry in our global society."
Cliff Glaviano, Educational Media Reviews Online

"An amusing and irreverent but also resonant exposé...Entertaining in its sardonic style...Blue Vinyl allows the industry its rather laughable say, but presents a scientifically persuasive case that PVC chemicals are now getting into the atmosphere, groundwater, and the food chain. Recommended."
Video Librarian

"Highly recommended"
Library Journal

"Blue alternately hilarious and disturbing...Helfand's style of filmmaking is similar to Michael Moore's, except that she is less confrontational. When interviewing corporate executives, she incorporates a subtle, naive approach to tease out self-incriminating statements...Incorporating animation into the film is not only creative but also educational...Although it is not your typical film used in anthropology classes, its emphasis on environmental issues and community activism are very important. Showing examples of corporate culture and raising the issue of corporate social responsibility (or the lack thereof) are also important points of discussion for the classroom. Considering the ever-increasing number of business majors in the university population, it would be a very important film for both undergraduate and graduate students."
Jeanne M. Fitzsimmons, School of American Research, for American Anthropologist

"Funny and unpretentious... It brings up honest questions, such as where this product came from, why we are using it, and if we don't want to use it, what alternatives are out there. Most people feel that on some level there is something wrong with vinyl siding, but not everyone knows why. This film exposes the fact that vinyl siding is, in every way, a hollow product."
Mark Bernard Steck, BUILDERnews

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DVDs include public performance rights.

Links Learn more about Blue Vinyl and the filmmakers.

Awards and Festivals
Emmy Awards nominee (Best Documentary, Best Research)
Excellence in Cinematography Award, Sundance Film Festival
Epic Award, The White House
Best Documentary, Bermuda Film Festival
Audience Award, Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema
Audience Award, Santa Cruz International Film Festival
Award of Excellence, Society for Visual Anthropology Film & Video Festival
Environmental Messenger of the Year, Environmental Grantmakers Association
"Nice Modernists" National Award, Dwell Magazine
Distinguished Documentary Achievement nominee, International Documentary Association
Best Environmental Preservation Feature, Artivist Film Festival
Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary, High Falls Films Festival (Rochester, NY)
South by Southwest Film Festival
Cleveland International Film Festival
Maryland Film Festival
Seattle Jewish Film Festival
Taos Talking Picture Festival
Hot Docs International Film Festival
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Encounters: South African International Documentary Film Festival
Melbourne International Film Festival
Athens International Film Festival
Green Screen Environmental Film Festival, San Francisco
Planet in Focus: Toronto Environmental Film and Video Festival
Sheffield International Documentary Festival
Human Rights Watch Film Festival
Green Mountain Film Festival
DocAviv Festival
Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival
The Wine Country Film Festival
Black Bear Film Festival
Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival
PINE Film Festival, Portland, OR
Muddy River Environmental Film Festival
American Conservation Film Festival, Shepherdstown, WV
World Community Film Festival
Jazz and Heritage Film Festival

Air Pollution
American Studies
Climate Change/Global Warming
Green Building

Toxic Chemicals
Urban Studies

Related Titles

Blue Vinyl (Short Version)
Filmmakers Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold use humor and chutzpah in their search for the environmental truth about vinyl.

The cost of our global addiction to devices is revealed in the struggle of a courageous Chinese activist helping young workers poisoned while making smartphones.

Addicted to Plastic
Reveals the history and worldwide scope of plastics pollution, investigates its toxicity and explores solutions.

An unflinching examination of the big business of bottled water.

Black Diamonds
Examines the escalating drama in Appalachia over mountaintop removal mining.

Razing Appalachia
Explores the controversial issue of mountaintop removal mining by following a grassroots fight to stop the process in West Virginia.

Hormone Imposters

In Our Own Backyard
Lois Gibbs brilliantly leads her fellow residents in Love Canal in this classic documentary on the nation's first encounter with toxic waste.

Native peoples pay the consequences of uranium mining.

In Our Own Backyards
How does uranium mining impact the land and the health of people?

Up Close and Toxic
Examines the alarming levels of pollutants inside our homes and suggests ways to reduce them.

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