"Mapping Love" is a film about the intimate journey of a family of women as they cope with the generational effects of being poisoned by toxic waste for more than a decade. We hope you will support this film as we seek answers about our cancer-causing genes and take our health into our own hands.
Inclusion StatementEnvironmental disasters disproportionately occur in lower-income areas. "Mapping Love" is a film created entirely by women. It seeks to affect change with an impact campaign that will provide women's health educational resources for low income families affected by environmental disasters.
About The Project
When I was a teenager, my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, she was the third woman in my immediate family to receive this diagnosis. Both my mother and grandmother had already battled and recovered from breast cancer, and my mom would do so again in the coming years. I remember asking my mom why our family was so prone to cancer, and although she didn’t know the answer, she mentioned that it could have something to do with the fact that they had lived one block away from the Love Canal Superfund site in Niagara Falls, New York. This was the first time I remember considering the tragic effect that human negligence can have on the environment and human health.
In 1953 Hooker Chemical Company sold the land known today as “Love Canal” to the Niagara Falls Board of Education for one dollar. The company had been using the land as a toxic waste dump for decades. Before they sold the land, they covered the toxic waste in clay, and warned the School District not to build on top of the land or dig into the surface. Instead, the city built an elementary school on top of the toxic waste and erected hundreds of homes in the vicinity, digging into the land and spreading the toxins throughout the community. In the decades that followed, people in the area became sick, developed cancer, and were born with birth defects at an alarming rate. Although the EPA eventually cleaned up the toxic waste site, creating the first Superfund site in the United States, there is no way to truly measure the effects of this disaster.
This is where my family grew up. My mom swam in pools contaminated by toxic waste. My aunt played with her friends on toxic ground. My grandmother drank contaminated water for almost two decades without knowing it. Because of human negligence, my DNA has been altered. Because of corruption in government, I have to make impossible decisions about my future health. We carry a genetic mutation that makes us seven to eight times more likely to develop breast cancer than the average woman. "Mapping Love" is a film about my family, but it is representative of so many other families in the United States and across the world. By supporting the production of this film, you can help share my family's cautionary tale and ensure that other families are protected in the future.
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About This Team
Mary Alice McMillan – Writer/Director/Producer
Mary Alice is a documentary filmmaker based in Washington, D.C. She is an MFA candidate in American University’s Film and Media Arts program and is passionate about creating documentary films that spark social and institutional change. A North Carolina native with a background in political science, she is attracted to political stories of rural America, the workings and corruption of government, as well as the intersection between the environment and human health. Her most recent short film explores the whimsical nature of the maker of some of the most coveted bobble head dolls in the United States, Professor Ross E. Davies. His passion for the Supreme Court of the United States led him to create these intricately detailed and valuable dolls. Bobble is currently entering distribution. After the film is shown in various film festivals, it will be housed and accessed through the United States Supreme Court Archive as well as the Rare Books Collection at Yale Law School. Mary Alice's breast cancer-related genetic mutation sparked her latest film. As she ponders extreme health care options, Mary Alice uses the filmmaking process to learn more about the disturbing changes in her genetic history.
Shannon Shikles – Cinematographer/Editor
Shannon is a talented cinematographer and editor from Massachusetts. She has a wide range of experience creating documentary films about wildlife and environmental protection. Recently, she produced the documentary film Anacostia Revealed, slated to broadcast on Maryland Public Television in April of 2019. She has developed a web series about sustainability, filmed hippopotamus in South Africa, served as the Director of Photography on short films about political history and art restoration, and is currently filming her own documentary about the art of communicating science in public policy. Shannon is currently a junior editor at NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and will complete her Masters of Arts in Film and Media Arts at American University in May of 2019.
Cathy Peunic Quinn and Barbara Peunic McMillan
Barbara is an instructional technology educator and Mary Alice's mom. She was born in Niagara Falls, New York, just blocks away from the Love Canal Superfund site. The youngest child, she lived in the vicinity of the toxic waste site the shortest amount of time. But her mother and father's prolonged exposure to toxic waste likely affected her DNA, causing a genetic mutation that predisposed her to breast cancer. Barbara has battled breast cancer twice in her lifetime and is passionate about helping other women in their healthcare journies. Over the course of the film, we will learn about Barbara's intense battles with cancer, and her desire to save her only daughter from the same struggles.
Cathy is a vascular nurse located in South Carolina. Cathy is the older sibling and has spent more time exposed to the toxic waste in her childhood neighborhood. She has very distinct memories of the environmental disaster from her childhood. Over the course of the film, Cathy helps piece together the family's genetic history as they seek answers about about their cancer risk. After surviving breast cancer twice, Cathy was tested for the genetic mutation and found out that she shares the same mutation as her sister and neice. Cathy is a passionate individual who has dedicated her life to caring for human health and supporting the women in her life.