On the Fenceline: A Fight for Clean Air is an urgent call for justice for Philadelphia's low-income communities. After years of living on the fenceline of the east coast’s largest oil refinery and suffering from several critical health issues – including cancer, asthma, and COPD – residents have come together to stand up to CEOs and fight for their right to breathe.
On June 21, 2019, an explosion at the refinery was the tipping point for
the majority of residents. As the now-defunct refinery land has been
put up for sale, the opportunity has finally come for community members
and environmental activists to shut down operations for good.
The film follows three particular members of the activist organization: Sonya Sanders, a resident who fights for a better future for both her son and sick husband, Carol White, a resident whose health was impacted by the June explosion and who lost a mother to cancer, and Rodney Ray, a former refinery laborer whose family has resided in the area for multiple generations. Viewers are put up-close and personal on the streets with Philly Thrive as this resilient community fights to keep the refinery closed for good.
Throughout the film, we begin to see and understand that against all odds, communities have the power to stand up to large corporations.
FILMMAKERS' STATEMENTS: "We put a lot of love and care into representing this story, and it's really heartening that other people are finding meaning in it. We're living in a time where wins for environmental and racial justice really need to be widely celebrated. The best part of having this story shared transnationally is knowing that this organizing work is being celebrated beyond this small community in South Philadelphia.
There was a lot of trust in our team, creatively and logistically, which I think really helped us with this process. We made the best documentary we could have possibly made because we all approached this with different experiences and viewpoints."
— Tara Eng
"Spreading the voice of Philly Thrive beyond just the city of Philadelphia is so important to other people struggling. Seeing the success and power that Philly Thrive has on your screen in the form of a film will give confidence to others fighting for their own rights, whatever their struggle is. Oil refineries are a terrible and dangerous threat to our environment, and sharing that message with the world and sharing Philly Thrive's fight is so important to make our world a better, more hospitable place to live."
— Alex Klein