Less than 3% of films mention climate change. La Pecera (The Fishbowl), which premiered this year at Sundance, tells the story of Noelia, a woman diagnosed with cancer who travels back to her hometown in Vieques, Puerto Rico. The film is a stunning meditation on the themes of cancer, colonialism, and climate disaster, all intertwined with the strong bonds of family and community. The film’s haunting visuals and dark, earthy tones are the perfect reflection of the heavy themes the film explores.
At the heart of La Pecera is the idea of freedom and choice, as Noelia decides to return to Vieques in the face of her cancer metastasizing. Her choice is a powerful one, a declaration of her agency and her right to determine her own fate, even in the face of an illness that may claim her life. Self-determination is especially significant in the context of Vieques, which the US Navy used as its practice grounds for 60 years before Boricuas finally kicked them out. Noelia’s decision to return is a way of reclaiming her heritage, her identity, and her connection to the land and the people of Vieques.
The film also explores the devastating impact of colonialism and militarization on the people of Vieques. The US Navy’s practices have left a legacy of trauma and contamination on the island, which is a symbol of the broader impact of colonialism on the world at large. In many ways, the film is a call to action, a reminder of the importance of protecting the land and the people who live on it, and a celebration of their resilience and resistance.
The film’s visuals are stunning, with a palette of dark, jewel-toned blues that mirror the depth and complexity of the themes explored. The blues evoke the ocean and the sky, the very elements that connect the people of Vieques to the rest of the world. They also serve to underscore the fragility of the environment and the importance of protecting it.
One of the film’s strongest themes is the relationship between mothers and daughters. Noelia’s relationship with her own mother is sweet and tender, but also reflects the cross-generational lessons explored in the film. The film portrays the older group as tireless in their work, and their sacrifices and struggles are mirrored in the lives of their children and grandchildren. This theme is especially significant in the context of Vieques, where the people have been fighting for their rights and their land for generations.
La Pecera also explores the impact of climate disaster on the people of Vieques. The island is increasingly being impacted by rising sea levels, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events, all of which are the result of climate change, serving as a powerful reminder of the need to take action on climate change.
In many ways, the main character of Noelia is a symbol of the inevitable and tragic results of when we continue to use and abuse our world. Her cancer serves as a warning of the damage our actions are causing, and the need for us to change course. This message is all the more poignant in the context of Vieques, where the US Navy’s practices have had such a devastating impact on the people and the environment.
In the end, La Pecera is a film that explores the complex interplay between illness, colonialism, and environmental disaster, all through the lens of family, community, and freedom. It is a film that is both heartbreaking and hopeful, its powerful message and haunting visuals forming a compelling addition to our limited climate narrative. Especially when you layer in the film’s Latinx, by way of Puerto Rico, focus – La Pecera is exactly the type of representation we need.