Fast-fashion purveyors such as H&M, Forever 21 and Zara have grown at a pace worthy of comparison to Starbucks. Although their inexpensive merchandise sells like hotcakes, the documentary “The True Cost” argues that hidden in the price tags are human and environmental costs.
Director Andrew Morgan immediately commands attention by exposing the deplorable Bangladeshi sweatshop sector where more than a thousand workers have died in accidents that have made headlines worldwide. Those who do make it out alive earn as little as $2 a day, forcing them to leave children behind in the care of relatives in their villages. On this topic, Morgan has done due diligence so seldom seen in this sort of advocacy documentary by interviewing factory owners and free-market proponents.
The film’s depictions of fast fashion’s environmental costs carry less weight. Aside from devastating sights of pollution and children with birth defects, the effects of fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified cotton and chemical dyes don’t appear quite as tangible. Environmentalist Vandana Shiva has made the rounds by appearing in 37 documentary features, and here she just seems to be beating a dead horse.
One would almost be inclined to give Morgan a pass for interviewing some of his executive producers as expert sources. A bigger disappointment is the missed opportunity to address the significant retailer markups that could have gone toward improving sweatshop conditions instead of profit margins.
“The True Cost”
MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills. Also on VOD.