October 19, 2021

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FILM REVIEW: DARK WATERS (2019)

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a synthetic tetrafluoroethylene fluoropolymer. The ethylene fluorine polymer compound is better known by the trade name Teflon. It was created by Roy J. Plunkett (1910-1994) at DuPont in 1938.

Along with the times, Teflon is widely used as a non-stick coating. Especially, on pots, pans, and other cooking utensils. However, about a decade ago, rumors circulated that shocked the mothers. Namely, polymer compounds that have the lowest coefficient of friction can cause cancer.

The true story behind the shocking news is what the Dark Waters movie brings up. The screenplay was adapted from an in-depth report by The New York Times. Written by Nathaniel Rich and released in 2016. The title is The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.

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The report tells of attorney Robert Bilott’s struggle against one of the world’s largest chemical companies from America: DuPont. For the case of contamination of the chemical compound PFOA aka C-8. Which is found in many Teflon products.

 

Chemical compounds that endanger public health, in fact, have long been used by DuPont in West Virginia. To be precise, since the 1950s. However, it is not recorded by the United States Government. Until, finally, Robert Bilott filed a lawsuit against the company.

The case itself has been rolling since 1998, but was only revealed to the public in 2001. This was followed by medical research. The title is The C8 Health Project. Against 68,000 people in West Virginia. To substantiate the environmental pollution claims that have been made by DuPont.

 

The disclosure of the case was later made into the film Dark Waters. Directed by Todd Haynes. And starring Mark Ruffalo. Who plays the figure of lawyer Robert Bilott.

 

Adapting to the Dark Waters scandal wasn’t easy. The biggest challenge is condensing true stories that have a fairly long time span. Which has been rolling since the 1950s. Until it becomes a film that only lasts about two hours.

However, this challenge, in the end, was able to be answered by the screenwriter of this Dark Waters film. By summarizing the true story throughout the sixty years without losing its essence. Which is complete with the background of the problem. Until the conflicts that occur in each of the characters.

 

However, even though the time span spanned six decades, the main focus of the Dark Waters screenplay remained from 1998 to 2001. That is, when attorney Robert Bilott handled the environmental pollution case by DuPont.

In a way, this Dark Waters film tells the story of Bilott’s struggles and turmoil in uncovering the facts hidden by the giant company. Which, in fact, had close ties to the law firm he worked for.

 

The case began in 1998 when an old rancher from outback West Virginia came to Bilott’s office. Which at that time had just been accepted to work at a law firm. Which is often hired to defend big companies with expensive fees.

The old farmer named Wilbur Tennant complained about the condition of his farm which was almost bankrupt. Because many of the livestock are sick and die. He suspects, the cause is the chemical company DuPont. Who dumps waste near his farm.

Tennant, at last, was forced to go to Bilott. Because none of the local lawyers in his residence dared to help him. They are afraid of having to fight a giant company like DuPont.

 

Bilott, at first, doubted Tennant’s testimony. Until then he went down to the scene himself. And found a lot of strange facts. Starting from the condition of livestock that are sick and dead to the condition of the surrounding environment and the condition of the local community that is not normal.

Bilott decided to investigate further. While trying to get an environmental impact analysis study in the Tennant farm area. However, the answer to the report Billot got himself from DuPont left him confused.

The law firm where Bilott worked had a close relationship with DuPont for decades. Therefore, he must choose: Defend his career, welfare, and, indeed, the safety of his family or expose the rottenness that DuPont is hiding. That threatens the lives of the wider community.