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The Plastic and the Penguin - Short Film Review

Updated: Mar 31, 2021


A Film by: #HenryWest

Poster for The Plastic and the Penguin

Climate change, overfishing, poaching, predators and pollution... birds that have waddled this planet for millennia are facing more threats than ever in a world dramatically altered by humans. 90 percent of the world's seabirds have ingested plastic. All of them will by 2050. It's on all of us to create change. For the penguins. For the oceans.

Narrated in character as the penguins to create some personality, The Plastic and the Penguin is a super short documentary film that shows the affects of climate change, littering and pollution, seemingly crafted to be shown to young children as a form of education on the subject. The film runs at only 3-minutes and therefore is really a scratching of the icy surface, but it gets the job done with great execution. We follow a young penguin as he searches for help across the snowy plains of Antartica; his mother choking on some food that turned out to be used plastic which made its way into their waters.

Through beautiful, BBC documentary-level cinematography, the penguins and their brisk but suffering surroundings are captured in all their cold-toned glory, that is until the film progresses and the colour fades into greyness to accentuate the human influence on their world. There’s some great selected music that plays underneath these sharp visuals and though the journey of the young penguin is short, the music supports the emotional triggers West was aiming for. As an educational piece that’s both fun and tragic, The Plastic and the Penguin is a great little piece of documentary filmmaking.

Still from The Plastic and the Penguin

West’s storytelling style is quite unique; he created this film as a celebration of World Penguin Day, and it should definitely be shown to young students in schools every year on this day. It may not solve the problem, but it would absolutely plant the seed in the minds of children and perhaps set off a cascade of burning questions that they would then bring home. The Plastic and the Penguin would benefit from a longer runtime but given the clear indication that it’s intended to be more of an alerting piece than an in-depth and educational one, it works quite well.

The direction and editing from West is superb. His eye for capturing the world in its beauty, whilst capturing the destruction that continues to cripple animal kingdoms, deeply affecting their way of life, is astonishing. The only gripe is that the narration lacks some enthusiasm. It’s not that it’s terrible, and as mentioned before, this is clearly aimed at children, but some sharper direction for certain lines would have improved the film significantly. That said, The Plastic and the Penguin boasts some truly stunning cinematography and it wouldn’t surprise me if West continues on down this path of documentary filmmaking, maybe even collecting some awards along the way.



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