Ryan Chartrand

Carmen suffers from kidney damage and lead poisoning from years of exposure to toxic chemicals while making televisions, electrical cables, toys, clothes, batteries and IV tubes.

She is one of the millions who work in maquiladoras – Mexican sweatshops owned by multinational organizations, including those from the United States.

Carmen and others like her are working for change and are featured in the 2006 documentary film “Maquilapolis: City of Factories,” which will be presented at the Steynberg Gallery, 1531 Monterey St., 7 p.m. Saturday.

The film highlights “what’s wrong (with free trade) and how to fix it,” said Andrew Christie, the director for the Sierra Club’s local chapter, which is co-sponsoring the event. “It was a cooperative effort between the filmmakers and the subjects.”

Along with the Sierra Club, the event is being sponsored by the SLO Fair Trade Coalition and HopeDance Magazine. This is the first time the Steynberg Gallery and the Sierra Club will work together to bring the public a free film screening.

The SLO Fair Trade Coalition will provide information on how and where to buy fair trade products, present a brief informational film and the documentary itself, and also answer any questions after the screening, Christie said.

“I was a student when I first became exposed to fair trade,” Christie said. He added that students were vital to the fair trade movement in the early ’90s. Fair trade issues are only going to get more and more crucial.”

The screening will provide viewers with the opportunity to learn about free trade, fair trade, the rise of maquiladoras, and the struggle of a group of women activists who work in one of the massive sweatshops in Tijuana.

“We have seating for 70 to 80 people and we’re hoping to get about 50,” said Estelle Steynberg, co-owner of the gallery.

The gallery’s full coffee bar will also be available to viewers, Steynberg added.

Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre, producers of the film, conducted a six-week workshop in Tijuana training a group of women to use digital video cameras in order to make the documentary, Christie said.

“You get a first-hand look at what’s wrong with free trade,” he said, adding that the film tells an “inspiring story” of the women who work in the factory.

The factory workers featured in the film were involved in every stage of production, from planning to shooting and from scripting to outreach, according to the documentary’s Web site.

While there have been home screenings of the film across the country, this is the first time the film will be shown publicly in San Luis Obispo, Christie said.

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