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Monobloc

A film by Hauke Wendler

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Monobloc from Icarus Films on Vimeo.

Universally recognized yet frequently discarded, since its creation in the 1970s, the Monobloc plastic chair has been the world’s best-selling piece of furniture.

With more than a billion units in circulation worldwide, this deceptively bland piece of furniture was originally conceived by designer Henry Massonnet as a fashionable commodity for upper-class consumers. The pursuit of lowered production costs above all else soon turned the Monobloc into a symbol of cheap design, environmental waste, and bad taste across much of the Western world. Hauke Wendler’s documentary MONOBLOC takes a closer look at its ubiquity and streamlined production process, finding a microcosm of economic globalization and inequality.

Filming across five continents, Wendler contrasts this disparaging view of the Monobloc with its role in many developing countries, where its low cost has made it one of the few pieces of furniture that impoverished families can afford. In Uganda we are introduced to Dan Schoendorfer, whose Free Wheelchair Mission has modified inexpensive Monoblocs to make wheelchairs available to millions for the first time. Trips to India and Brazil similarly reveal the chair’s importance to the developing world, where local industrialist families have taken over the production and recycling process.

Expansive in scope, MONOBLOC reveals how a single consumer product can tell a much broader story of global development, aesthetic judgement and economic inequality.

"A tale that an object tells with a critical eye toward globalization, a story that spans functionality and beauty, capitalism and sharing, consumption and recycling." —Pier 53

“The success story of one chair brilliantly illustrates globalization at work.”
—NDR Info

“A tale of design history and aesthetic humility; illustrates the monobloc’s role in the not-so-affluent world.” —Suddeutsche Zeitung

“A symbol of the interconnected world that we all live in.” —ZDF Heute Journal

“Uses the monobloc as a yardstick for the inequality in the world.” —Deutschlandfunk Kultur

"Five stars! Exposes the unprecedented international career of the design classic." —PlastEurope

"A story about economics, justice, equal opportunities, dignity and the strange relationship between people and things." —A Visual Zine

"Charming! Monumental banality: An extremely ugly chair... that everyone has anyway."
—Der Spiegel

Milan Design Film Festival 2021
Thessaloniki Film Festival 2021
DOK.fest Munich Documentary Festival 2021
Opening Film, Osnabrück Film Festival 2021
Lübeck Nordic Film Days 2021
Braunschweig International Film Festival 2021
Kasseler Dokfest Documentary Festival 2021

90 minutes / Color
German; Portuguese / English subtitles
Closed Captioned
Release: 2022
Copyright: 2021

For individual consumers (home video)

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For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

Subject areas:
Sustainability, Art, Advertising & Marketing, Architecture, Business Ethics, Environment, Business Ethics, Globalization, Urban Planning & Design, Urban Studies

Watch the trailer:

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