Film

  • Fly Me to the Moon
  • GRANTEE
    Esther Figueroa & Mimi Sheller
    GRANT YEAR
    2016

Bauxite mining pit in Jamaica, 2015. Courtesy of Esther Figueroa.

There are deep political-ecological and geopolitical connections between the polluted landscapes left by bauxite mining in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries, and the sleek aluminum architecture associated with energy-intensive mobile modernity in the United States. Focusing on aluminum's transnational role in reshaping modern transport, warfare, homes, buildings, and everyday portable design, the feature length documentary Fly Me to the Moon unravels the toxic realities of past, present, and future "aluminum dreams." By juxtaposing streamlined designs for fast transport and metallic dwellings with the ecological impacts of bauxite mining and smelting, modern design is re-situated in the global context of twentieth-century modernization, development, and postcolonial independence movements. Through interviews with protagonists and affected community members and visits to company towns and factories, the film shows how advanced architectural programs, fast transportation, and the transnational industrial landscapes of planetary urbanism left a legacy of toxic waste and social injustice that continues to haunt green design today.

Esther Figueroa is an independent film maker, writer, educator and linguist with over thirty years of experience in media productions, including television programming, documentaries, educational videos, multimedia, and feature film. Figueroa's films have screened and televised all over the world, and have been taught at numerous universities. They include the award-winning feature documentary Jamaica for Sale (2009). Her shorts Cockpit Country: Voices from Jamaica's Heart (2008) and Cockpit Country is Our Home (2012) are central in the fight to stop bauxite mining in Cockpit Country. Figueroa was a visiting distinguished writer at the University of Hawaii’s English Department in 2013. Her publications include Sociolinguistic Metatheory (1994), At Home the Green Remains (2003), and her novel Limbo (2013), the first Jamaican environmental novel—a finalist in the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards for Multi-Cultural Fiction.

Mimi Sheller is professor of sociology; founding director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy, Drexel University; and president of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic, and Mobility. She is author and/or coeditor of nine books, including Aluminum Dreams: The Making of Light Modernity (MIT Press, 2014); The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities (2013); and Citizenship from Below: Erotic Agency and Caribbean Freedom (Duke University Press, 2012). As founding coeditor of the journal Mobilities, she helped to establish the new interdisciplinary field of mobilities research. She was awarded the Doctor Honoris Causa from Roskilde University, Denmark (2015) and held visiting fellowships at the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University (2008); Media@McGill, Canada (2009); the Center for Mobility and Urban Studies at Aalborg University, Denmark (2009); and the Penn Humanities Forum, University of Pennsylvania (2010).