Let Us Breathe

“Let Us Breathe” is an educational and inspiring documentary-short that covers the environmental disparity between neighborhoods in the North and South sides of Chicago. Growing up on the southeast side, a historically brown and black community, high school students Gregory Miller and Destiny Vasquez show us what it’s like to live in an area that they describe as “Chicago’s dumping ground for dirty industry.” They discuss personal and familial health problems caused by pollution, as well as struggles with mental health from unpleasant smells that inhibit them from going outside and friends moving away due to these effects. When scrap metal company “General Iron”, known to be a serial polluter, announces its plans to set up operation directly across the street from their high school, Gregory and Destiny decide they’ve had enough. “Let Us Breathe” follows their story as they team up with their classmates and community to fight for their right to clean air.

  • Katie Jahns
    Director
  • Liz Frohwein
    Director
  • Ali Wilt
    Director
  • Alisa Gao
    Director
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Genres:
    Documentary, Enironmental, Social Justice
  • Runtime:
    15 minutes 25 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 7, 2021
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    Yes - Northwestern University
Director Biography - Katie Jahns, Liz Frohwein, Ali Wilt, Alisa Gao

When we created this film, we were all undergraduates at Northwestern University, Medill, studying journalism. We created this film in just 9 weeks as a project for our documentary class. We were inspired by the determination and kindness of the people in this film and are honored to have had the chance to help tell their story.

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Director Statement

This is a David and Goliath story of an unlikely win for a community that often is disregarded by its city. I hope this film can serve as inspiration to others who are feeling overwhelmed by the state of our planet or the inequality in our communities. It’s common to feel like you’re one voice shouting into the void and that nothing you do or say can have any real impact. But “Let Us Breathe” is proof that you can make a difference, no matter your age or job or where you live. Change isn’t easy, the people in this film showed a perseverance like I’ve never seen, but they also show the possibilities that open up when you choose to fight for your community and your right to breathe.

I hope that one day it won’t have to be a struggle to get access to clean air. But until that day, people like those featured in this film remind us that we are capable of demanding those rights be met, and fighting to make them delivered.