Jack Sim wants you to know that "the toilet is a spiritual room." And first-time documentarian Lily Zepeda, who's been aiding Sim in his worldwide quest to spread the gospel of quarantined shit, wants you to know that a global dearth of such physical channels to the almighty is as big a global problem as any other you could possibly name.
This dual desire birthed Mr Toilet: The World's #2 Man, a wee piece of film that alternates between an unflinching look into the outhouse of one of Earth's most pressing concerns, an under-developed character sketch of Sim and some truly delightful slices of animated transition that come as a welcome surprise from someone who's never made a movie before.
Sim's tale is well-worn for anyone who's paid attention to the planet's "sanitation" or "outdoor defecation" crisis: 2.5 billion earthlings don't have toilets, which causes pollution in water supplies and leads to all manner of disease worldwide, and Sim has been trying to convince the world that toilets are worth fighting for. Zepeda and her eye for odd detail—be it acres of human feces scattered along riverbanks, Sim's deranged oil-on-canvas self-portraits, sweeping aerials of the world's largest fair—render his struggle more human than the BBC, The Guardian or any other news organization that's ever tried to highlight his work ever could have.
The film succeeds visually throughout; there were several stretches during which we wish Zepeda had just slammed the mute button. But she's trying to do more, namely, tell the viewer who Sim really is, why he's chosen such an unattractive cause, and that effort falls flat in the final analysis. Still, Mr Toilet is worth the hour and a half if even just for the issue: Admit it—you've never considered the grand kaka as something with which your social conscious should engage.
6 +Massively important, under-reported topic -Disjointed; overly gauzy character sketch Mr Toilet: The World's #2 Man Directed by Zepeda With Sim, his family, co-conspirators, sometimes rivals Santa Fe Independent Film Festival The Screen, NR, 97 min.