Sue Williams | USA/China | 2016 | Documentary | 73 min
Replete with inconvenient truths about the devices we’ve come to rely upon for convenience and connectivity, Death by Design is a powerful and provocative look at the hidden human and ecological costs of our favourite gadgets. Director Sue Williams surveys the tech industry’s long history of haphazard attitudes towards hazardous materials, from the high rate of cancer among IBM employees in the ‘70s and ‘80s to the contemporary complaints of workers at Foxconn, Apple’s Taiwanese manufacturing partner. While many of these facts are grim—60% of China’s groundwater is unfit to drink thanks in part to factory pollutants—Death by Design isn’t all bad news. Williams also takes time to spotlight companies like iFixIt and iameco, working to empower consumers to disrupt the cycle of planned obsolescence.
Sue Williams has produced and directed five critically acclaimed, feature documentaries about China for national PBS broadcast, including Frontline. Contemporary China features prominently in her most recent film, Death by Design. Sue also directed two highly praised biographies on Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary Pickford for the PBS series, American Experience.
Her films have been broadcast in more than 25 countries and appeared in festivals around the world; they have won numerous awards, including the 2016 The Boston Globe Filmmakers Fund Award.