Pollution in Commerce City at center of new documentary screening at Denver Film Festival

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Many, many new homes in Commerce City, Nov. 9, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Homes in Commerce City, Nov. 9, 2018.

For Commerce City resident Lucy Molina, one of the reasons she moved to the Denver suburb was for her kids. 

“I was like, ‘Oh, that's so awesome. My kids are going to have a park right behind them,’” Molina says in a new film, “A Good Neighbor,” screening at the Denver Film Festival. “And I didn't know I was actually killing them.” 

Molina’s story is at the center of the film by Colorado filmmakers Maggie Hartmans and Brittany Zampella.

After more than 12 years in the film industry, the two best friends — who dreamed of changing the world via film and visual storytelling — formed Farsighted Creative in 2020 in California. 

But, remote work during the COVID pandemic sparked Littleton-native Hartmans' idea to move back to Colorado, bringing the new production company and her business partner along. 

“So I asked Brittany if she wanted to move with me back to Colorado and set up our offices here,” Harmans said. “And she had visited once before, so luckily it was an easy sell. It was much nicer to be here. My family's here and just a little bit of a better atmosphere in Colorado.” 

The duo’s film is one of 186 films screening at the 46th edition of the Denver Film Festival this week. The festival gives out a handful of awards for films, filmmakers and special ones for special guests. Hartmans and Zampella also get the chance to show their work to a wide audience, work they want centered on kindness to the planet, and that which focuses on a more empathetic and hopeful future.

With “A Good Neighbor,” the pair found that mission in Molina, whom they decided — as soon as they met her — would become the central figure of their film.

“We had no idea what was going on in Commerce City so far as the pollution, and we just knew it smelled bad when we drove by it on the highway,” Zampella said. “But we didn't know the degree until we started to hear about Lucy and her experience.” 

The feature-length documentary follows the Latina single mother as she fights racism and climate change … and runs for Commerce City city council. 

“A lot of people [are] like, ‘Why don't we just move?’ Well, we can't afford to move, one,” Molina says in the film. “We end up in places like Commerce City because they push us out of these gentrified areas and we move up to where it's cheaper to live.

“After a hundred years of environmental racism and environmental injustices, this community's fed up. We're done.”

"A Good Neighbor" plays the the Sie FilmCenter as part of the Denver Film Festival on Wednesday, November 8, at 7:00 p.m. and Thursday, November 9, at 3:30 p.m.

Editor’s Note: Colorado Public Radio is a media sponsor of the Denver Film Festival and the Denver Film Society is a financial supporter of CPR, but has no editorial influence.