Whether it’s firearms resulting in school massacres or simple sugar addiction, documentarian Stephanie Soechtig has always been interested in exposing society’s ills. “My very first film, Tapped, looked at the bottled water industry, and in doing that, we were looking at the plastics and BPA and other phthalates that were leaching into our water bottles,” the director recalled, sitting down at Deadline’s Sundance Studio to discuss her latest project, The Devil We Know.
“That was the first time that I learned that there is no government agency that is testing these products to make sure that they’re safe for us. I had assume if it’s on the shelf that it’s safe, but in fact, that is not the case.”
With The Devil We Know, Soechtig followed a group of West Virginia citizens who challenged a powerful corporation to be more environmentally responsible. That corporation would be DuPont, who in 1945 introduced Teflon to the marketplace, changing millions of American households and introducing a biopersistent chemical into the bloodstream of 99 percent of Americans.
Joining Soechtig in the studio were West Virginia residents Bucky Bailey and Joe Kiger and Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook, who have seen and experienced firsthand the disturbing results of corporate indiscretion. “There were things going on in the community, such as dogs dying all over the neighborhood with tumors, young boys with testicular cancer,” Kiger recalled of the byproducts of chemical exposure within his community. “It was a real mess.”
In bringing a documentary on the subject to Sundance, Bailey hopes to use his voice to foster change. “Alone, we’re single voices, but with the help of Stephanie and our crew, we’re a community. That’s what I hope will spread,” Bailey said. “You never are silent unless you choose to be. You have a voice, and that’s what we want people to realize.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” he continued, “holding people accountable.”
To view Deadline’s conversation with the Devil We Know team, take a look above.
The Deadline Studio is presented by Hyundai. Special thanks to Calii Love.