For me (Alex Lora) the idea of making this film came up several years ago when I moved to New York. I was seeing mountains of garbage bags piled in the streets, and people that would collect the cans and bottles. I thought that there was a contradiction. I started to research about plastic and recycling methods, followed some canners and created a teaser with some vintage recordings, but abandoned the project until I met Adán.
For me (Adán Aliaga) the idea came up when I started collaborating with Sure We Can, a non-for-profit redemption center in NYC, not only a recycling center, but also a community space and a sustainability hub. A place where cans and plastic bottles are exchanged for coins, and where organic waste is recycled to create compost. I talked with Alex and shared some footage, he showed me the teaser he made and we found out that we were on the same page. We started to collaborate together with the idea to make a feature, and during this process, we made a short documentary too.
The inspiring work of the redemption center and the people we met there encourage us to take a close look at the particular logic of this place.
Ana Martinez de Luco, the ex-director of Sure We Can is Spanish too and that was an important starting point of connection for this project. We met Ana, and started collaborating with her for a few months, volunteering to help their project to raise $3 million dollars to purchase the property Sure We Can resides on. While filming some video pieces to show the work SWC is doing and their impact in so many peoples lives, we started to get more curious about this special place, our “Fourth Kingdom”.
That’s how we renamed the space, a magical setting, but also in reference to the kingdom of plastics, created by men, in addition to the three natural kingdoms: animal, plant and the mineral. The people of the “Fourth Kingdom” transform trash into a source of income that allows them to live and integrate into society, to avoid being marginalized.
With this film, we also wanted to address another point of view on what we call “progress” in our modern society. Plastics changed our lives and our world. Waste, pollution, recycling… are new realities, side effects of that evolution, the other side of the dream of progress.
In the “Fourth Kingdom”, the organic and non-organic waste from our consumerist society, become the dreams of hundreds of people, their dreams of progressing, their personal “American Dream”, most of them immigrants, fighting for a better life.