Fenceline: A Company Town Divided

Polluting industries have a history of locating in low-income, minority communities, impacting health and leaving residents to fight for environmental justice. Fenceline follows the struggle of an African-American neighborhood known as the Diamond Community to be relocated because of the pollution from the Royal Dutch/Shell Oil Company.

When Shell bought out Diamond in the 1940's to build a petrochemical industry, the company said nothing about potential health hazards, instead promising high paying jobs with generous benefits. Sixty years later, Norco, a company town which includes Diamond, is divided. Residents of the Diamond Community say they receive no economic benefits, yet inherit health problems ranging from asthma to cancer. The majority of white residents work for Shell and view the company as a benevolent employer. They reject the health problems of their neighbors as the result of poor lifestyle choices. Meanwhile, Shell depicts itself as a "good neighbor," carefully monitoring chemical emissions and offering employment to the community.

This film helped to resolve the conflict in Norco; in June 2002, the publicity caused by the impending national broadcast of Fenceline on PBS prompted Shell to offer to buy out all four streets of the Diamond Community.


Environmental Media Association Award,2003
Certificate of Merit in Environment, San Francisco International Film Festival, 2002
Platinum Award in Documentary, Worldfest- Houston, 2002
Best Environmental Film, Vermont International Film Festival, 2002
John Michaels Memorial Award, Big Muddy Film Festival, 2002
Official selection, Memphis International Film Festival, 2002


"The film is an excellent and very concrete example of institutional racism, a concept often difficult for students to understand. 'Fenceline' has always produced good discussions in my classes and we have returned to examples from the film throughout the semester. I would recommend using 'Fenceline' to enrich nearly any introductory sociology course." Teaching Sociology

"Revealing documentary" Booklist

"Highly Recommended. . Of interest to students of East Asian history, imperialism in Asia, and the impact of tea upon those countries involved with its production and trade. As it deals with the role of multinational companies in the international trade, the positions of food products in our lives. and other issues of current interest, it should serve well as a discussion tool." Paul Moeller, University of Colorado at Boulder for Educational Media Reviews on Line

"Fenceline looks at race and toxic pollution in a company town in that portion of the Mississippi Delta known as Cancer Alley..." New York Magazine

Fenceline: A Company Town Divided


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