Following a dangerous meme challenge associated with the film, Bird Box is now being criticized for using real footage of a Canadian train derailment that claimed the lives of 47 people, according to Mashable. Netflix reportedly has no plans to edit it out, according to a source who spoke to Bustle.
Netflix recently confirmed to Mashable that footage used in one of the film's scenes shares snapshots of the disaster, which occurred in the summer of 2013 when a train carrying 74 cars of crude oil derailed near the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Several of the runaway rail cars exploded and a resulting wildfire burned most of the surrounding area. In total, dozens of people lost their lives and almost half of the region's downtown infrastructure was destroyed, according to BBC. Footage of the horrific tragedy, which, per Vice, was captured by both onlookers and professionals, later became available for purchase for a nominal fee by stock video companies.
According to the BBC, this stock footage came from the vendor Pond 5, which released a statement saying it apologized "to anyone who was offended, especially the victims and their families." The company also apologized that the footage was "taken out of context and used in entertainment programming." In the case of Bird Box, a brief clip of the catastrophe was used early in the film to depict a news story about an apocalypse. According to the Globe and Mail, Pond 5 also stated that the company was in the process of reaching out to customers who bought the footage in the hopes that it will be used sensitively going forward.
As pointed out by Vice, the practice of using real-life footage in films is far from a rare occurrence. In fact, Deadline reported that a Canadian science fiction show called Travelers recently included a similar clip of the Lac-Mégantic disaster in its third season. According to that report, Travelers is working to remove the distressing snippet from the episode.
Lac-Mégantic Mayor Julie Morin expressed his disappointment at seeing the real life disaster in Netflix's Bird Box, telling the Canadian Press on Tuesday, Jan. 15:
"We find that it's really a lack of respect, to use these images as fiction and entertainment. It's hard enough for our citizens to see these images when they are used normally and respectfully on the news. Just imagine, to have them used as fiction, as if they were invented."
However, Morin issued another statement late Thursday, Jan. 17, telling the Globe and Mail that she had been in touch with a Netflix representative. Morin said that she felt Netflix was "committed to reflect with their partners on the use of images so that this situation is not repeated." The mayor also added that she "sensed a sensitivity to the recovery of our citizens."
Bird Box has proven to be a huge success for Netflix, which tweeted that the film had been viewed by over 45 million accounts in its first week on the platform. But survivors of harrowing tragedies such as the Lac-Mégantic derailment should never be faced with images of their trauma for the sake of entertainment.