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Film on Fight to Close Fisk, Crawford Coal Plants Premieres in Pilsen

By Chloe Riley | August 30, 2013 6:23am | Updated on August 30, 2013 1:42pm
 "Monsters" — a documentary about the shuttering of the Fisk coal plant — makes its Chicago debut Friday.
"Monsters" — a documentary about the shuttering of the Fisk coal plant — makes its Chicago debut Friday.
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PILSEN — When Leila Mendez first agreed to allow director Melissa Thompson to follow her with a camera during the last three years of her fight to close Pilsen’s Fisk coal plant, she didn’t realize how the ever-present cameras would affect her by the end.

“Having to tell my story over and over again was really physically and emotionally draining. But it was just really an incredible feeling to see all of our work finally come to an end in that aspect,” said Mendez, 55, a lifelong resident of Pilsen.

Thompson’s documentary, "Monsters" — a Greenpeace production — chronicles the last several years of Mendez's and Pilsen environmental group PERRO’s almost decade-long fight to close the Fisk and Crawford coal plants on the city’s Southwest Side.

While the film officially screened in Sarasota in April, its first screening in Pilsen, where it was shot, is at 8 p.m. Friday at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St.

The Fisk plant, at 1111 W. Cermak Road, closed in August 2012 after more than a century of operations. The Crawford station at 3501 S. Pulaski Road closed at the same time. It had been open since 1925.

Mendez, who ran a Montessori school but now is an independent insurance broker, said the fight to close the plants was challenging but gratifying.

"It was mind blowing," she said of the entire experience.

Watching the film was "just really an incredible feeling. ... People said they were moved to tears. It's a beautiful, very inspiring movie."

Tickets for the documentary screening are $30 and include food, drink and a copy of the "Monsters" DVD. All proceeds from the screening benefit the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization.