FEATURE: Puppet-based mini-series for children stands up to pollution
Children and teenagers from Quintero and Puchuncaví, Chile are the protagonists of a new video mini-series aimed at young audiences called ‘Breathable: Children of a New Wind’ that was released in March 2021. The puppet characters in the mini-series are part of what is called a ‘sacrifice zone’ – a heavily polluted area where their health is at risk. The series explores how children living in these zones are affected by pollution and how they have mobilised to improve their quality of life.
This article is slightly modified from the original Spanish version.
‘I wish that the president and owners of companies would reach into their hearts and think of us for one moment. We are being poisoned and are slowly dying. I really wish they understood that we have the right to breathe clean, uncontaminated air’, says Annais Medina, age 11 and a chronic respiratory patient who has been hospitalised on numerous occasions. She is one of the protagonists of the mini-series, Breathable: Children of a New Wind.
The mini-series was created after journalistic investigation into the living conditions in Quintero and Puchuncaví. The investigation focused on the profound impacts on children of living in an area with an array of thermoelectrical companies, foundries, fuel storage and copper and carbon processors. Their area is referred to locally as a ‘sacrifice zone’ – as the inhabitants are sacrificed to the unhealthy pollution spewed out by the factories in the zone.
The research resulted in an innovative proposal for an audio-visual project based on the interviews with the children and teenagers – to tell their stories through puppets in the series. The collection of testimonies were gathered from scientific and social research conducted in the area, from press archives, old photos, interviews with field-experts, local residents and organisations such as Women in the Sacrifice Zone and the Movement for Children of Quintero and Puchuncaví.
The series follows the adventure of the only two fictitious characters, Nube and Gaviota (Cloud and Seagull) as they try to understand what is happening in Quintero and Puchuncaví: a place where the children play differently to other children their age, where they do not play in the town square or run around at break times. Through stop-motion and shadow puppets, they explain what industrial zones, sacrifice zones and global warming are. Their adventure meets a surprise when they find out how local children have self-organised to deal with the situation and act against climate change.
The so-called sacrifice zone has endured environmental disasters including oil spills, carbon dumping and massive contamination in recent years. The most recent calamity was in 2018 and lead to 1,000 children needing emergency medical attention for symptoms such as vomiting, dizziness and light-headedness.
The youth from the affected areas responded by organising mass protests and managed to get the Supreme Court to accept the community’s claim and recognise that the state had failed to protect children, ordering public services and companies to employ 15 reparatory measures.
‘The children and teenagers from Quintero and Puchuncaví have been suffering and deprived of the right to health, education and a clean environment for years. Despite the supreme court ruling, the children are continuously exposed to contamination affecting their development and lives’, says Child Advocate, Patricia Muñoz, who is part of the mini-series launch forum. The launch forum included numerous children and teenagers from the zone and representatives from organisations; namely: Katta Alonso from Women in Sacrifice Zones, Camila Ponce (Youth Leader, Manuel Pizarro (Movement for the Children of Quintero and Puchuncaví), Patricia Muñoz (Child Advocate), Sandra Cortés (Epidemiologist) and Diego Ibáñez (government representative).
‘Children and teenagers have the right to make decisions and to receive reliable information about their world. This is something that is often overlooked, and we wanted to make it possible. When you understand what is happening, you can stop being a passive victim and begin to form your own opinions and even choose to take measures to change your reality if you believe it is necessary’ says Greta di Girolamo, the mini-series journalist and script writer.
The mini-series is one of the five projects implemented in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru that were supported by CDKN and FFLA through seed funding. The proposals were put forward by participants on a course organised by the Climate Knowledge Hub for Latin America (Clik Hub). The course ran from May to June 2020 and was called “Effective Communication on Climate Change – more than 100 projects were proposed for effective communication on climate change and this one was selected for funding. The mini-series was produced by a multi-disciplinary team.