Skip to Content
They Keep Quiet So We Make Noise cover image

They Keep Quiet So We Make Noise 2023


Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Marlena Skrobe and Yoshitaka Ota
Directed by Marlena Skrobe
Streaming, 12 mins

College - General Adult
Activism; Environmentalism; Recycling

Date Entered: 11/01/2023

Reviewed by Erica Swenson Danowitz, Chat Reference Librarian; Research/Information Services Librarian/Contractor: Paratext; Retired Reference Librarian, Delaware County Community College

Have you ever wondered, when you recycle, where the materials ultimately go? We would hope that these items are recycled properly, might be reused, and our actions would contribute to a more sustainable world, especially with plastic waste. They Keep Quiet So We Make Noise reveals that good intentions do not always lead to positive results. In this documentary two activists take the viewer around a town in Malaysia called Jenjarom located under an hour from Kuala Lumpur. These individuals seek out illicit plastics facilities that pepper the Malaysian landscape even though most of these establishments remain illegal and are not licensed or regulated by the government. As a result of their unlawful status, these “recycling plants” openly burn or dump plastics originally intended for recycling, but which are impossible to reuse. These acts, conducted at night when government agents are absent, have contributed to horrible smells, toxic air, and other environmental hazards that the Malaysian government appears unable to address.

To stop these illegal activities civilians, such as the two featured in this film, have formed their own local environmental protection agencies where they search for, find, and then document unauthorized plastic “recycling” facilities. As the documentary title indicates, Malaysian civilians take a stand and try to address environmental violations while the government remains “quiet,” doing little to prevent these destructive acts. These activists gather evidence or shoot videos of the actions of these nefarious companies who leave plastic ash, bags of plastic debris, and cubes of trash scattered everywhere. The scenes of plastic pollution left in the wake of these enterprises are sickening and make one think about the impact trash, especially unsustainable plastics, have on the environment.

The activists in They Keep Quiet So We Make Noise note toward the end of this brief film that environmental protections are a global issue. Scores of countries send their plastics to Malaysia for what they think is legitimate plastic recycling processes which are instead illegally incinerated or dumped causing harm to the entire natural world. These courageous Malaysians note that “we share the same world.” They implore other nations to cease sending plastic rubbish to their country which continues to harbor thousands of illegal plastic factories even though civilian efforts have succeeded in shutting some of these facilities down.

This documentary is available in DSL and DVD formats. The DVD includes public performance rights. They Keep Quiet So We Make Noise is recommended for advanced high school classes and college courses such as biology, ecology, and environmental studies. It is short enough to be weaved into lesson plans or assigned as homework in areas related to waste management, recycling, or global environmentalism. The mountains of plastic waste strewn throughout much of this film’s landscape should serve as a sobering wakeup call that deficient plastic recycling techniques and inadequate waste management processes are major concerns that the world must address.

Audience Award, Best Documentary Short, Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital; Best Documentary Short, Berlin Short Film Festival; Best Documentary Short, Rome Independent Cinema Festival; Exceptional Merit, Nature Without Borders Int'l Film Festival; Best Documentary Short, Beyond Earth Film Festival; Best Documentary Short, Golden Sparrow Int'l Film Festival

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.