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MSU Cinema International Presents "The True Cost," Provoking Documentary on Fashion's Environmental Impact, This Week

Murray State University Cinema International presents "The True Cost" on Thursday, April 13, and Saturday, April 15.
Murray State University Cinema International presents "The True Cost" on Thursday, April 13, and Saturday, April 15.

In the second to last installment of Murray State Cinema International's 2023 Spring season, the program presents the 2015 U.S. documentary The True Cost, which explores the environmental impact of the clothing industry from fast fashion to designer culture. Austin Carter speaks to program director Dr. Thérèse St. Paul and marketing professor Dr. Yana Andonova ahead of the screenings.

From the MSU Cinema International website:

"A gripping and provocative film exposing the human and environmental costs of the global fashion industry, which ultimately threatens the planet. This is the very best of all the documentaries about the urgency of a serious problem rarely noted by the mainstream media. This is a film you must see! (Ellen Rosen, Author, Making Sweatshops: The Globalization of the U.S. Apparel Industry)."

"The price of clothing has been decreasing while the human and environmental costs have grown," St. Paul begins. "This is a groundbreaking documentary because it pulls back the curtain on a part of our world that we are not familiar with. We know there are sweatshops. But we do not know how much our clothes depend on that. We are making a non-ethical choice whenever we take a piece of clothing from a store. It's very hard to come to terms with that. This movie asks us to consider the price of our clothing."

"When it comes to clothing, it's commonly known that a lot of third-world countries are involved in the production [of fast fashion]," Andonova adds. She says fewer people know that these unethical practices are used in all tiers of apparel manufacturing, including designer goods. "Everybody's looking to minimize costs when it comes to production. There are a lot of ethical questions when it comes to that for those countries."

St. Paul says the documentary emphasizes that the fashion industry is the second worst polluter on the planet—the oil industry being the first. She says that clothing's environmental impact starts from the very beginning of the manufacturing process. "From growing cotton...pesticides, all sorts of dangerous chemicals that affect the land and the people who work with the crops. Down to the manufacturer, where there are dyes and chemicals used at every process, and this goes straight into the water tables."

"Especially in countries where the governments are unscrupulous because they need the money from the big international corporations," St. Paul continues, "and they think their humans are expendable. The water tables are polluted. People die of all sorts of horrible diseases—cancer is just one of them. They have birth defects—all that because the water is affected. There are also issues of human farmer suicides because they are tied to the crops. It's a big, never-ending cycle of horrors, basically."

A discussion will follow both screenings, which St. Paul anticipates will cover questions like, "What can we do? Do we feel powerless, or can we do something? The documentary is very thorough," she says. "There are many points that can be discussed. We need clothes. So, we need to continue. The fashion industry is not going to stop. So, how can we minimize this exploitation of the third world for our benefit? How are we affected? There's this aspect that concerns us. We are brainwashed by advertisements. We are told that we absolutely need to buy certain products."

Murray State Cinema International presents The True Cost on Thursday, April 13, and Saturday, April 15, at 7:30 pm in Faculty Hall, from 208. Both screenings and discussions are free and open to the public. For more information on the Cinema International program, including upcoming screenings and how to donate, visit its website.

Austin Carter is a Murray State grad and has been involved with WKMS since he was in high school. Over the years he has been a producer for WKMS and has hosted several music shows, but now calls Morning Edition his home each weekday morning.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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