Greenpeace documentary about Chicago coal plant premieres at film festival

by Melissa Thompson

April 10, 2013

“What should we call you?” I ask Leila Mendez before our Q and A session after a screening of Monsters, Greenpeace’s documentary about Leila and Chicago’s fight to shut down an ancient coal plant.Star? Too Hollywood.Documentary subject? Too weird.Kick-ass activist? Bingo.

Leila and I are in sunny Sarasota, Florida, sitting in a dark theater. We’re here to show our film “Monsters” (“Monstruos” in Spanish) at the “Through Women’s Eyes” portion of the Sarasota Film Festival. The film follows Leila’s involvement with the fight to shut down the monsters that loom over her community – Chicago’s Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants.The crowd of nearly 150 people is deathly quiet as Leila describes her own fight with cancer, and the health impacts her entire family has suffered. The crowd claps and cheers when Greenpeace activists scale the coal plant painting it with the words “Quit Coal.” They cheer again when we see Leila at a press conference, announcing the plant’s closure the following year, after more than a decade of community activism.As we head to the front of the theater for the Q and A, people rise to commend Leila on her fight. People in the audience are wowed by this woman’s fierce optimism, despite the formidable odds against her and the 90% Latino community she’s a part of.The crowd has plenty of questions for Leila.

“Did you ever feel worried for your safety?”

The answer is yes.

“Did you ever give up hope?”

The answer is no.

“What can we do to help?”

So we start talking about the Big Bend plant, just an hour’s drive north, which has been fined for polluting the Tampa Bay with coal ash and which relies on mountaintop removal coal.

If you’d like to see the film, it’s not too late. It screens again today at the Sarasota Film Festival, and hopefully someday soon in a theater near you. If you’d like to arrange a screening in your community, please let me know at [email protected]org.

Trailer: Monsters (Monstruos) from Greenpeace USA on Vimeo.

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