3,000 civilians dead. A village shattered. One multinational corporation, Eternit, reaps profits. Most people believe that asbestos, a commonly used fiber and known carcinogen, is a problem of the past; however, despite widely documented evidence of its dangers, asbestos use continues and contributes to thousands of deaths every year. In fact, asbestos production has once again begun to rise in the world, due in large part to the extent of its consumption in developing countries such as India, China, and Russia. Lead by Canada, countries that produce the fiber have lobbied heavily against its international ban and have had significant international influence on the politics of single countries and international organizations. Its power is so great that in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the law approved last year to ban the use of asbestos had to be withdrawn. All around the world, anti-asbestos activists are threatened or sued and governments are attacked at the WTO for anti-competitive behavior. It is in this controversial climate that Italy’s first criminal trial against asbestos executives started in Turin. The accused are two major stockholders of Eternit, the Swiss-Belgian industrial giant that for decades dominated the world market for asbestos cement products. The charges are severe: voluntary manslaughter and omission of sanitary precautions relating to the thousands of asbestos-related deaths. The defense claims that the executives were not aware of the direct link between inhalation of asbestos fibers and pleural cancers. They claim that the death of 3,000 factory workers, family members, and citizens of the small town of Casale Monferrato were caused by a lack of information for which the two accused cannot be held entirely responsible. In response, the prosecutors must demonstrate that information about the hazardous nature of asbestos was widely available long before the European law imposed shutting down the plants, and that the omission of health and safety measures for its workers is equivalent to the liability of these deaths. The documentary’s narrative thread follows the parallel path of two women, both deeply involved in the debate on asbestos: Luisa Minazzi, a Casale activist suffering from asbestos related cancer, and Laurie Kazan-Allen, the founder of IBAS (International Ban Asbestos Secretariat). With these women, we will follow the trial’s progression, its implications in Italy and around the world, and the most recent lobby strategies from those that continue to profit from the asbestos business. Written & Directed by Niccolò Bruna and Andrea Prandstraller. Running time: 85 minutes. In Italian, with English subtitles.
Jan 23, 2012, 10:52:36
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