Netflix’s postapocalyptic film starring Sandra Bullock, Bird Box, uses footage from a real, deadly train crash in Canada from 2013, according to CBC News, outraging survivors of the disaster.
The Lac-Mégantic, Québec, rail disaster occurred in July 2013 when a runaway train derailed, causing its millions of gallons of oil to start a major fire killing 47 people and destroying the town’s downtown area.
Lac-Mégantic Mayor Julie Morin told the CBC that she noticed Bird Box uses footage from the real-life tragedy in some scenes — a move she says showed a “lack of respect” to those affected.
“It’s hard enough for our citizens to see these images when they are used normally and respectfully on the news,” Morin said. “Just imagine, to have them used as fiction, as if they were invented.”
The footage in question appears when Bullock’s character, Malorie, turns on her television at the beginning of the film to watch the news at the suggestion of her sister, Jessica (Sarah Paulson). While watching the news, Malorie learns about the mass suicides occurring all around the world, which set off the apocalyptic nightmare.
Morin said she also noticed that Travelers, another fictional sci-fi Netflix series in which special operatives are sent back in time and transform into other people who are about to have near-death experiences, uses footage from the Lac-Mégantic train crash.
Carrie Mudd, president of Travelers’ production company Peacock Alley Entertainment, apologized and told the CBC they got the footage from a stock image vendor called Pond5.
“We sincerely apologize and had no intention to dishonour the tragic events of 2013,” Mudd said in a statement. “We are already working to replace the footage in the show.”
Tina Witoshkin, a spokesperson for Pond5, also apologized to BuzzFeed News in a statement, saying the company was “recently” made aware that the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster footage “was taken out of context and used in entertainment programming.”
“We deeply regret that this happened and sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended, especially the victims and their families,” Witoshkin wrote.
The company explained that it hosts both fictional and news coverage archival footage, including “footage of historical tragedies, military conflicts, weather events, and natural disasters that may depict sensitive events.”
“We are saddened by this incident and are taking additional steps to correct the situation,” Witoshkin said. We are contacting all customers who have purchased any related clips to ensure they are aware of the sensitive nature of this footage. Additionally, we’re proactively re-auditing content of this nature, while continuing to improve our guidance for usage.”
According to the CBC, Netflix said they were looking into whether Bird Box does, in fact, use this footage. Representatives for Netflix didn’t respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.
The film’s credits do not list Pond5 as having provided stock footage, but they do acknowledge Getty Images and AP Archive, two companies with news outlets.
Earlier this month, Netflix was also criticized for reportedly using footage of a Belgium train crash that killed 19 people in its 2017 film Death Note, which was based on a Japanese series with the same name.
The accident, which occurred in February 2010, was the result of two trains colliding after one missed a stop signal during morning rush hour.
Anita Mahy, a 60-year-old survivor of the train crash, told local Belgian paper De Standaard that Netflix’s usage of the footage demonstrated a “complete lack of respect for all those involved.”
“You’ll just sit and watch an evening movie unsuspectingly and then face the accident again,” Mahy said. “It makes me furious.”