Sweet Poison

Sweet Poison (Doce Veneno) is a documentary film that elucidates the consequences of pesticide usage in Northeast Brazil. Limoeiro Do Norte is a city of 60,000 where the repercussions of pesticide poisoning have devastated communities. From a contaminated water supply and to high incidents of birth defects, disability and terminal illness, the inhabitants of this city have been intimately affected by their exposure to pesticides. While farm workers are still preparing and spraying pesticides without access to proper protection, one
person is dying of cancer every nine days. When local activist Zé Maria revealed the harmful impacts of pesticides to the media, he was murdered for speaking out. Farm workers in Limoeiro have collaborated to organize and advocate, and have won historic legislation to protect their communities. This documentary shares their story to spread the movement in hopes of creating the momentum for authentic change.

  • Waleska Santiago
  • Waleska Santiago
  • Melquiades Junior
  • Martin Thiel
  • Brady Hallongren
  • Kurt Vanzo
    Music By
  • Chico César & Carlos Renno
    Song By
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    16 minutes
  • Production Budget:
    5,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Portuguese
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Through Women's Eyes International Film Festival
    United States
    March 7, 2020
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Waleska Santiago

Waleska Santiago is an independent film producer and photojournalist from Fortaleza, Brazil. She has a B.A. in journalism from the Universidade de Fortaleza and an M.A. in Media for Social Justice from Woodbury University. Her work in photography has won global recognition, and her short film Peixe Roncador (2013) won first place in several international film competitions. She has also produced Do No Harm: The Opioid Epidemic (2017), Backfired: When VW Lied to America (2018), and the Our Kids: Narrowing the Opportunity Gap series (2019). Sweet Poison is her first documentary as Director, Cinematographer, Producer, Editor, and Outreach Director.

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Director Statement

This project began in early 2015 when Waleska Santiago re-connected with her colleague, journalist Melquiades Junior, and began discussing the parameters of this project. This marked the start of the research and development phase. In the summer of 2015, Waleska and Melquiades filmed on-site in Limoeiro Do Norte, Brazil. In May 2016 the first draft of the film was presented as Waleska Santiago's master's thesis. After connecting with a few collaborators and volunteers in 2018 they began post production for the final cut. The film is in the final stages of post production and scheduled to be finished in September of 2019. Upon completion of the film, we intend to begin promoting it with allies who contributed to its development and organizations that are dedicated to issues of environmental and labor rights, and submit it to film festivals. The intentions of this film are to both illustrate the reverberations of pesticide exposure and to support grassroots movements working for justice. Brazil is currently the top consumer of pesticides on the planet. Limoeiro Do Norte is a microcosm of how the abuse of pesticides, both approved and illegal, is harming global communities, disproportionately those that are economically vulnerable. We want to further the dialogue to raise awareness about exposure to toxins. With this film we hope to create momentum toward meaningful change in policy and regulation that promotes public health, environmental safety, food security and to hold agribusiness accountable.