Mossville, Louisiana, was founded in the 18th century by the formerly enslaved and free people of color, but today it houses a toxic, cancer-causing power plant that has forced all but one resident to leave. That man, Stacey Ryan, has been standing his ground by refusing to abandon his family’s home, and his fight is now the subject of a new documentary, “Mossville: When Great Trees Fall,” in theaters in New York on March 26 and in Los Angeles on April 10.
Mossville is surrounded by 14 oil, gas and petrochemical plants owned by various chemical conglomerates. One such company is Sasol—based in South Africa, and whose Mossville project is the largest in the western hemisphere. Forty-nine-year-old Ryan has lost many of his family members to cancer and seen his neighborhood demolished to make space for Sasol’s newest $21.2 billion dollar project expansion.
“For much of the country, stories of police brutality and the carceral state are important signifiers of racial inequality, but environmental racism is too often overlooked, despite it being a devastating force of violence and displacement,” said director Alex Glustrom in a release.
“As we watch unprecedented rollbacks of federal environmental regulations, and the effects of climate change become ever more apparent, the decisions of who suffers the consequences of industrialization 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.”
*This article has been updated as of March 10, 2020.