The Ritz Herald
© Alexander Glustrom

Intimate Documentary Exposes Link Between Race and Environmental Injustice

One man standing in the way of a petrochemical plant expansion refuses to give up

Published on May 28, 2020

Mossville, Louisiana is a shadow of its former self – a community rich in natural resources and history, founded by formerly enslaved people and free people of color, where neighbors lived in harmony and were insulated from the horrors of Jim Crow. Today, however, Mossville no longer resembles the town it once was. Surrounded by 14 petrochemical plants, Mossville is the future site of apartheid-born South African-based chemical company Sasol’s newest plant – proposed as a $21.2 billion project and the largest in the western hemisphere.

The community struggles to let go of their ancestral home, and at the center of it all is a man named Stacey Ryan, a lifelong Mossville resident. In the past 10 years, Stacey has lost much of his family to cancer and seen the neighborhood he grew up in demolished to make way for Sasol’s new multi-billion dollar project. He experiences these changes from the view of his parent’s home, a FEMA trailer smack in the middle of where the new facility is being built. He refuses to leave, having promised his dying parents to fight the sprawling chemical companies. Stacey struggles to keep his promise as his power, water, and sewage are all cut off, and his health continues to decline from ongoing chemical exposure. His dilemma is a moral one, too: he has a five-year-old son living nearby that he wants to move out of state, yet for now, the pull of that promise to his parents keeps him living in the middle of a construction site. As Sasol encroaches on citizens’ property with buyout offers, Stacey and his neighbors have to decide whether to exist in a chemical war zone, or abandon land that has been in their families for generations.

“The story of Mossville feels as relevant as ever as the Coronavirus continues to amplify the same systemic inequities that are illustrated in the film,” says director Alexander Glustrom. “We are excited to make the film available to the PBS audience in order to use this moment as an opportunity to reconstruct a more ethical and environmentally responsible society.”

MOSSVILLE: When Great Trees Fall took home Best Southern Feature Award at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, and the Kathleen Bryan Edwards Human Rights Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Executive Editor