“After a hundred years of environmental racism and environmental injustices this
community is fed up, we’re done. I think right now we’re waking up.”
-Lucy Molina, A Good Neighbor
A Good Neighbor, a feature-length documentary film by Maggie Hartmans and Brittany Zampella, tells the story of Lucy Molina, a Latina single mother living in Commerce City, a suburb of Denver, Colorado, one of the most polluted areas in the entire country. The 80216 zip code is where you will find the Suncor facility, the biggest polluter in Commerce City, along with a distribution hub for UPS, a Purina manufacturing plant and an Xcel natural gas plant, numerous factories and three highways.
If you’ve been following the news, Suncor, in particular, has been violating EPA standards for years with extremely toxic emissions. Commerce City is also a neighborhood, a neighborhood that is primarily people of color and lower-income. It should not come as a surprise that Commerce City has been designated a “sacrifice zone” by these polluters.
The film opens with Lucy and her two children who are frequently dealing with health issues – headaches, asthma attacks, nose bleeds. And because her children are often ill and missing school days, Lucy is questioned by school officials suggesting she may not be a responsible parent.
Lucy’s family is not the only family in the neighborhood impacted by their polluting neighbors. In 2021, Lucy, with no money and political experience, decides to run for city council where she hopes to be a voice for those who have been left out of the decision-making process in Commerce City.
A Good Neighbor is a passionate film. Lucy’s passion for her family and her neighbors is met in kind by the passion of her friends and volunteers who work on her election campaign. There will be no spoiler alerts because I want you to see the film.
The filmmakers, Maggie Hartmans and Brittany Zempella are best friends who founded Farsighted Creative, a media production group based in Lafayette, Colorado in 2020. Both filmmakers have years of experience in film and media production. Maggie, a graduate of the Colorado Film School, made her way to Los Angeles where she worked in film production. Brittany started her film career working for a documentary production company in Kansas City.
And as good fortune would have it, Maggie was hired by Brittany’s company which had relocated to Sacramento, California in 2019. They immediately bonded and began their journey as independent filmmakers, taking on small projects (music videos, podcasts, fundraising videos for non-profits) while continuing to work for the production company.
In January 2020, they decided to take the leap and start their own production company, Farsighted Creative. Maggie and Brittany also decided to relocate to Lafayette, Colorado (Maggie is a Coloradan). They like to say of their work that “we only make Good things”. So with that in mind, the projects that they take on are ones that are for clients and businesses that are doing good in the world.
Telling personal stories is how they approach the projects they decide to take on. In addition to their client projects, they have done three short films, two features and a series. Shortly after moving to Colorado, Maggie, who cares deeply about the environment and climate change, suggested to Brittany that they explore what was happening in Colorado and see how they could become involved and offer creative support.
In 2021, they reached out to a good friend, Quinn Antus, a climate change activist and co-founder and executive director of Signal Tech Coalition, a non-profit organization working with tech leaders in Colorado. It was Quinn who introduced Maggie and Brittany to Lucy Molina who was just beginning her campaign for city council in Commerce City.
Maggie and Brittany knew immediately upon meeting Lucy and learning more about her (Lucy’s) campaign that they wanted to do a film. Lucy, in turn, trusting that Maggie and Brittany were sincere and capable, welcomed them with open arms.
For seven months, April through November 2021, they followed and filmed Lucy and her family, her friends and campaign volunteers, as well as interviewing climate and medical experts. And then began they began the editing process, securing rights and permissions for usage, and verifying climate and medical facts. Once they had a rough cut, they had a few focus groups view the film and give them feedback. One of those focus groups included Lucy and a few friends from her neighborhood.
A Good Neighbor was completed in January 2023. It is important to note that Maggie and Brittany made this film with no external funding. But they soon realized that they would need to do a fundraising campaign to raise money for submission fees to film festivals and future distribution to a wider audience. With the launch of their Indigogo campaign they raised funding to begin submitting their film to festivals.
A Good Neighbor had its premier screening at the Colorado Environmental Film Festival in February 2023. The film has also screened at the New York International Women Festival, Mimesis Documentary Festival, Breckenridge Film Festival, Pikes Peak docuFest and the Women’s Film Festival (Colorado Springs). And
A Good Neighbor has been picked up by Good Docs for distribution. There is also a short version of A Good Neighbor (19 minutes) which will have its world premier at the upcoming Denver Film Festival, not far from Commerce City.
A Good Neighbor is a big-hearted film that should inspire all of us to be a good neighbor – locally and globally. Thank you Maggie and Brittany for making the film and getting it out there in the world. Thank you Lucy for showing us what it means to care beyond ones self and immediate family and what one person can do to make change happen for the better. Lucy is also a community organizer with 350 Colorado.
To learn more about A Good Neighbor, visit their website: agoodneighborfilm.com
A Good Neighbor (documentary short version) will be screening at the Denver Film Festival: Wednesday, November 8, 2023, 7pm & Thursday, November 9, 2023 at 3:30pm, Sie Film Center, 2510 E Colfax Avenue