Awards :
New Nordic Voices: - winner Nordisk Panorama | Earth Prize - Pariscience

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Toxic Playground



Toxic Playground

by Willliam Johansson & Lars Edman
Laïka Film
| Sweden | 70’ - 58’ | 2009 | Children in Arica in the North of Chile are falling badly ill because of toxic waste dumped by a Swedish company in the 80’s. The young filmmaker Lars find Rolf, head of environment at the company who was responsible for the waste going to Chile and who decides to deal with his wrongdoings in the past. He agrees to go back to Chile to take the consequences.

Lars, 23, is studying film in Chile when he meets children in Cerro Chuño, Arica. They are falling badly ill because their neighbourhood has been a dump for toxic waste from Skellefteå, Lars’ home town in Västerbotten, Sweden. The waste, sent to Chile in 1985, contains heavy metals, which most probably is the main cause to the diseases of the children.

12-year old Yoselin is a belly dancer and wants to become a doctor. But her hips are beginning to crumble and the doctors discover a deformation on her breast. Lars decides to help Yoselin to find out whether Boliden is accountable for what has happened to her and the other inhabitants of Cerro Chuño.

Fernando Dougnac a Chilean lawyer, is running the case against the state of Chile.The waste was ‘imported’ from Boliden by Promel, a company that claimed it could make profit from exploiting the metal residues. But when the customs demanded a fee to bring the material into the country, Promel refused too pay. The authorities transported the waste to the neighbourhood where Yoselin lives today. Fernando’s opinion is that the Chiliean authorities are guilty of many mistakes and errors in the dealing with the waste, and in the building of the new living area. But what about Boliden? Should they have done something differently?

Boliden is today one of the biggest mining companies in the world with an annual turnover of € 3.2 billion, Promel a Chilean chemical company, which in 1986 became Quiborax, today one of the biggest Chemical companies in South America. No one from the company has since then wanted to have anything to do with the pile of waste.

Lars discovers that Boliden did have a lot of business with the junta. Promel was only one in the row of companies with good connections to the military regime. The most important of these connections was Joaquin Larraín Gana. He personally signed the document that allowed Promel to import the waste from Boliden. Gana was a colonel under Pinochet, and is today accused of violating the human rights, while he was responsible for Clostridium Botulium, a poison used to torture and kill political prisoners. Lars is wondering if Boliden knew about this?

While Boliden is refusing to deal with the “old” scandal, Lars suddenly gets contact with a person who is willing to talk. Rolf was Boliden’s head of environment when the waste became a problem and he was responsible for the advice to send it all to Chile. He is now full of regrets and willing to take whatever the consequenses might be. He hesitates, but finally decides to go back to Chile with Lars. Together they take off to meet with Yoselin and the other Lead Children in Arica.

The film is a detective story with Lars as the leading character. He is a young dreamer who suddenly becomes a devoted fighter for truth and justice. The meeting with Rolf brings new and unexpected aspects to his engagement.