Planned obsolescence subject of Light Bulb Conspiracy documentary

Richmond's Giles Slade, author of 'Made To Break,' is seeing his planned obsolescence theories play out at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival.
— image credit: Liam Slade photo

A documentary partly inspired by a Richmond author's book screens in Vancouver next week as part of the DOXA Documentary Film Festival.

The Light Bulb Conspiracy, written and directed by Cosima Dannoritzer of Spain, will make its Canadian premiere at the festival. Dannoritzer's 75-minute documentary explores why consumer products don't last, and the concept of planned obsolescence—the deliberate shortening of a product lifespan to boost consumer demand.

Richmond author Giles Slade served as one of the filmmaker's first points of reference. Slade wrote a book on the topic in 2006: Made To Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America.

In an e-mail, Dannoritzer said her idea of making the film dates to her childhood. She remembers her mother, in the 1970s, trying in vain to get spare parts for a broken appliance.

"That's when I heard the word 'planned obsolescence' for the first time. Then, a few years ago, I filmed a huge stack of discarded computers in a recycling plant and started wondering how broken they really were, and read all these crazy conspiracy theories about eternal light bulbs and everlasting cars on the Internet."

In 2007, she began probing deeper and interviewed Slade in New York for a few scenes in the documentary.

"Book and film have several things in common, but readers of the book can get new stories from the book which are not in the film, and get new stories from the film which are not in the book," said Dannoritzer.

The 2010 film centres on a plan among light bulb manufacturers to create short-lasting products in order to increase profits. The film also uncovers the story of an American fire station with an old-fashioned light bulb that's been working for decades and the quest of one man to fix a printer that others suggest he throws out.

The DOXA Documentary Film Festival runs from May 4 to 13, and features 72 documentary screenings in five different venues.

The Light Bulb Conspiracy screens noon Saturday, May 12 at Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St., in Vancouver.

Tickets for single screenings are $12 each plus a one-time $3 membership. More information at or call 604-646-3200.

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