Local Communities to Screen International Film on Environmental Racism - Mossville: When Great Trees Fall

18 July 2019 - Community organisations [1]VEJA (Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance) and [2]SDCEA (South Durban Community Environmental Alliance) are to host screenings of the documentary film Mossville: When Great Trees Fall. The film which will also be shown at the 40th anniversary of the Durban International Film Festival is a moving real-life story set in a town of Mossville in the United State about one man’s bravery against the bullying of the apartheid-born South African petrochemical giant Sasol.

The town of Mossville which was founded by former slaves and free people of colour was once a community rich in natural resources, local livelihoods and history, and a place where neighbours took care of one another and lived in harmony. Today, however, Mossville no longer resembles the town it once was. Surrounded by 14 petrochemical plants, Mossville is the future site of  South African-based chemical company Sasol’s newest plant – a $12.2 billion project and the largest in the western hemisphere.

At the center of it all is a man named Stacey Ryan. In the past ten years Stacey has lost both parents 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 in the middle of where the new Sasol facility is being built and he refuses to leave and abandon land that has been in his family for generations even when his power, water and sewage are all cut off, and his health continues to decline from ongoing chemical exposure. The film by Alexander Glustrom has won a number of international awards including the Kathleen Brown Edwards Award for Human Rights 2019.

Both the Vaal and south Durban community know too well the burden of existing in a chemical war zone as a result of toxic outputs from petrochemical industries and its health impacts. The community screenings will be facilitated by environmental justice action group [3]groundWork, which recently filed papers in the high court in what has been labeled the ‘Deadly Air Case’. Sasol along with Eskom are two of the biggest polluters in the country. Last year VEJA staged a protest outside Sasol’s AGM venue demanding they immediately address the environmental and socioeconomic problems arising from their operations.

The two organisations will curate a space for their communities to engage and interact about their own challenges in light of the petrochemical operations on their backyards. They will also highlight the power of film as a weapon of resistance and a tool for creating awareness amongst their communities to confront the negative social and environmental impacts of the petrochemical industries.

“Environmental racism is far too often overlooked despite it being a devastating force of violence and displacement. As we watch an unprecedented federal rollback of industrial regulations, and the effects of climate change become ever more apparent, the decisions of who suffers the consequences become increasingly critical. It is more important than ever that stories like Mossville demonstrate that race is a regularly determining factor of who is disproportionately denied access to clean air, land and water. My hope is that the film can alter audiences’ perspectives as it has my own and force people to reckon with the realization of who most often bears the burden of our energy consumption and production.  Mossville will not only be an effective organizing and fundraising tool for those on the frontlines but it will hopefully become a universal rallying cry against environmental racism.” - Alexander Glustrom film director.






DIFF (Durban International Film Fest)

Sunday 21 July

Musgrave Cine 03, Durban

5:00 PM

SDCEA – Community Screening

Tuesday 23 July

Austerville Civic Center, Durban

5:30 PM

VEJA – Community Screening

Friday 26 July

Thembalethu Hall, Sasolburg

4:00 PM

DIFF (Durban International Film Fest)

Sunday 28 July

Gateway Cine 12, Umhlanga, Durban

7:00 PM


Info and Images: http://www.mossvilleproject.com/directors-statement
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/145085489

[1] Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA) is an alliance of 9 environmental organizations with our focus on air quality, waste, water pollution & climate change in the Vaal Area.
[2] South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) is an environmental justice organization based in South Durban, South Africa. It is made up of 16 affiliate organizations and has been active since its formation in 1995.
[3] groundWork (gW) is a non-profit environmental justice and developmental organization working primarily in Southern Africa in the areas of Climate & Energy Justice, Coal, Environmental Health,Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, and Waste. groundWork is the South African member of Health Care Without Harm and Friends of the Earth International.

Sherelee Odayar
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
+27 71 858 9339

Mduduzi Tshabalala
Vaal Environmental Alliance
+27 64 645 1993

Tsepang Molefe
+27 74 405 1257