Hot Docs 2019 Review: Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man

by Andrew Parker

Filmmaker Lily Zepeda follows along with exploits and advocacy of World Toilet Organization founder and mouthpiece Jack Sim in Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man, an intelligently crafted and balanced documentary that effectively captures her subject’s rambunctious personality, the sanitary issues he wants to bring to a wider audience, and even some light criticism.

Sim, a Singapore native and family man who left a lucrative job in the world of high finance because it was making him miserable, founded the world’s “other WTO” with the purpose of ending the shockingly widespread practice of public defecation in developing or underdeveloped countries. One of his biggest and hardest challenges comes in the form of bringing his message to India, where almost 40% of the populations don’t own toilets or have minimal access to disgusting public outhouses. Sim – who often uses outlandish and self-deprecating humour to get his message across – and his small team of only nine employees try to work with the Indian government on bringing nine million toilets to a single province of 50 million people amid the Prime Minister’s new clean up initiatives.

Sim has a great approach when it comes to fostering social awareness: take a taboo, make it funny, make it somehow inexplicably sexy through the help of celebrities and influencers, and then get serious about it. Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man is just as much about Sim as it is about his mission, with Zepeda delivering a strong, truly character based documentary about an impassioned, rebellious advocate who sometimes forgets the difference between raising awareness and producing results. Can he genuinely set aside his desire to entertain long enough to be more than just another ineffective bureaucrat? More pointedly, would achieving the group’s target goal do anything to change the overall culture of the developing world?

Zepeda poses several questions along these lines throughout Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man, and while it’s too early to answer many of them and Sim is still far from wrapping up his global campaign, she does expertly showcase how all advocacy is personal and why the message shouldn’t be divorced or discounted from the person delivering it. Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man is a silly, but frequently smart look at a shitty global situation.

Saturday, April 27, 2019 – 5:45 pm – Scotiabank Theatre 3

Sunday, April 28, 2019 – 1:00 pm – Isabel Bader Theatre

Saturday, May 4, 2019 – 8:30 pm – Fox Theatre

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