Blue Vinyl is a documentary profiling the prevalence of vinyl products in society at the turn of the century, and the profound dangers that polyvinyl chloride (PVC) present to those that work in and live near manufacturing facilities of them.
Spring boarding from her father's installation of vinyl siding on their longtime family home, co-director Judith Helfand (along with filmmaker Daniel B. Gold) worries about the risks of synthetic materials (stemming from her own personal experience losing her uterus to DES poisoning earlier in life) and decides to explore other, more eco-friendly, home improvement options.
That quest leads the filmmakers on a journey to the chief U.S. vinyl manufacturing locale in Louisiana, where she meets a range of individuals that help her shed light on a worldwide industry cover-up of countless illnesses and deaths directly associated with exposure to polyvinyl chloride while working in the manufacturing plants.
Helfand and Gold approach what is very heavy subject matter with a humorous angle that helps keep the film upbeat and the narrative chugging along, yet do it tactfully enough to not squander their opportunity to truly educate the audience on a delicate matter, and honestly portray some very emotional stories of individuals whose lives have been destroyed by an industry that knowingly put them in harm's way. As evidenced by its Best Cinematography award and Grand Jury Prize nomination at the '02 Sundance festival, the filmmakers did a stellar job of raising awareness about a valid social issue in an entertaining fashion.
Those accomplishments do not mean the film is without flaw, and the eco-activist angle the film takes in sorting through the data, good and bad, that they come across without question has some holes that could be (and have been, if you read through some of the major review pools online - many seemingly attacking the film with a little too much pro-The-Vinyl-Institute vitriol) poked in them by opposition to their views.
All in all though, the film is a well-made inquisition into the dangers that one of the most financially successful, and thereby one of the most capable of suppressing the truth, industries on the planet.