Where did your favourite jeans come from – not the store where you bought them, but the factory across the world where they were sewn? And how did they get so blue?

Roger Williams, executive producer of the documentary RiverBlue, started asking himself questions like these when he saw a photo from China of “a blue black stain coming out of the river and going into the ocean.”

When he discovered that the stained water was from the blue-jean industry, he thought: “‘Well there’s a story because blue jeans are something that almost everybody has and I’m wearing them right now.”

He and his crew then embarked on a three-year mission where they traveled to 11 countries to investigate the dark side of denim. There they learned about how the fashion industry releases mercury, lead, other heavy metals and chemical dyes into the water supply, where the contaminants move through the rivers and into the ocean.

“We saw young kids swimming in rivers that were basically biologically dead,” he said. “It is pretty shocking what we’ve done to our rivers.”

In countries including Bangladesh, India and China, many of those who live along the dyed rivers that are too dirty for fish to survive have no choice but to use the water for their cooking and cleaning. Mr. Williams said he believes there’s “a definite correlation” between the contaminated water and the residents’ short lifespans.

“It’s scary but there are also solutions,” he said, adding that the documentary is half about the problem and half about how consumers, governments and the fashion industry can do better.

Globally 150 billion pieces of clothing are made each year, he said. Much of it ends up in the garbage, with the average North American throwing 80 pounds of clothing into the landfill each year.

“If you’re going to buy something, buy something that has quality to it,” he said. “Buy less and buy better, that’s one of the things I strive to do.”

In honour of World Rivers Day earlier in the week, Wildsight Invermere is hosting a screening of RiverBlue on Friday, September 28th at 7 p.m. at the Wilmer Community Hall (9179 West Avenue). Admission is by donation, with half of the proceeds going to the Invermere Thrift Store.

Mr. Williams, a seasoned filmmaker from Vancouver, will attend the event and is looking forward to holding a question-and-answer session for the audience following the show.

“You see the fashion industry advertising all kinds of glamour and great product and sexy lifestyles and all kinds of stuff like that but you don’t know what the backstory is,” he said.

RiverBlue was chosen as the best documentary at Raindance Film Festival and has taken home 10 other international awards. It is rated 8.7 out of 10 on IMDb (Internet Movie Database).

For more information and to watch the preview, visit riverbluethemovie.eco.