X Trillion review – all-women voyage to the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ packs a rousing punch

<span>On a mission … X Trillion.</span><span>Photograph: Wizzo Films</span>
On a mission … X Trillion.Photograph: Wizzo Films

Co-founded by environmental activist Emily Penn in 2014, not-for-profit organisation eXXpedition has made waves with their all-women voyages to remote sea territories, where their members witness firsthand the startling scale of marine plastic pollution. Taking part in the project in 2018, film-maker Eleanor Church was among a multidisciplinary cohort who set sail across 3,000 miles towards the North Pacific gyre, the infamous “garbage patch” where ocean plastics have been accumulating since the 1950s.

The arduous journey is one of both heartache and beauty. There are moments of sheer wonder, as the awestruck women observe a pod of dolphins spin, jump and glide across the cerulean sea. The same shimmering waves, however, also carry countless pieces of plastic, which irreversibly disrupt existing ecosystems. Throughout their three-week odyssey, the crew collect samples from the seawater, revealing a shocking density of microplastics; their findings suggest that each square kilometre of the surface of the North Pacific gyre can carry as much as half a million fragments.

Economical in scope, Church’s film intimately conveys the day-to-day challenges faced by the crew, many of whom are new to the reality of seafaring. In focusing on the uniqueness of their experience, however, the film feels a little light on the science. The use of music is especially unsubtle, as conversations among the crew are at times drowned out by the background score. Additionally, while press releases around the film emphasise the international makeup of the crew, on camera it looks as if most of the voyages are dominated by caucasian members from the global north – a key issue considering how the environmental movement has long been criticised as a largely white and privileged space. These are points of interest that Church’s documentary, rousing as it is, neglects to investigate further.

• X Trillion is at the Broadway, Nottingham, on 3 July, then tours.