Philip Bouknight and Amin El Siwi directed “East of the River,” a documentary film about Kelvin, a Northeast boy who died in a trash fire at the Kenilworth landfill. Following the tragedy, the National Park Service (NPS) converted the site into a park in 1970 and ended its use as a dump.
While the park is now frequented by residents of the nearby Kenilworth, Mayfair, and Eastland Gardens neighborhoods on the west side of the Kenilworth Freeway, no memorial or recognition exists for Kelvin.
“We mentioned in the film that the dump closed, and now it’s a park — but the soil was not treated,” co-director Amin El Siwi said in a 730DC interview. “They took the dump out, and then they put a cap on. So we’re thinking about whether we need to reach out to other nonprofits who are doing work on the river or on the park. Just to see any environmental issues that actually still exist. Maybe that could put pressure. We talked to Trey Sherard, who works with the Anacostia Riverkeeper, and he said ‘I’m 100% sure there are still toxins in the soil.’ Because it was not treated properly in the 1970s. We like to have facts, and that’s shocking.”
“It was a different angle because we were like ‘oh this dump is bad. It’s bad. It’s a dump,'” Bouknight said. “And then one guy was talking about how you would find good stuff. He knew every time this ice cream place would dump ice cream. It was still hard, it was still frozen. And it was so good, and they’d steal spoons from their parents to go eat the ice cream. It was stuff like that, these things weren’t accessible. These people lived in Wards 7 and 8, but when the dump would come, it was like otherworldly stuff [were available]. It was a great thing to have access to food. It’s still a food desert — because grocery stores are still so far away from where these people live. It was horrible for some, but it was a good thing for others to find stuff — it was like a secondhand store. If you needed old furniture, you could find it and make it new again.”
The screening will end with a Q&A with the filmmakers. Additionally, Action Youth Media will also screen “The Green Solution” and “Finding Hope: Paving the Way to Creativity,” two short documentaries created by staff and students.
“The Green Solution” explores environmental justice and urban green space and features Nathan Harrington, Executive Director of Ward 8 Woods Conservancy, and Mercedes Garcia Pérez, Head of Global Issues for the European Union Delegation. (Ms. Garcia Pérez’s term has since ended.)
For “Finding Hope: Paving the Way to Creativity,” student filmmakers interviewed Dr. Abdelfattah Abusrour during his special tour of the United States in 2023. In this short film, he discusses his experiences and the Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society. Alrowwad was founded by Dr. Abusrour in 1998 at Aida refugee camp-Bethlehem and registered as a non-profit organization in August 2003. With a spirit of social entrepreneurship and character-building for full human potential, ACTs has five departments dedicated to educational, artistic, and social innovation. With its artistic tours, ACTs extends its activities to a range of beneficiaries, starting with the Aida refugee camp, moving to Bethlehem, and then expanding to rural villages and refugee camps throughout Palestine. ACTs’ artistic performances and films have toured throughout Palestine and abroad.
Action Youth Media graphic