London is among Europe's most polluted cities*; its poor-quality air, largely sourced to toxic vehicle emissions, contributes to several thousand premature deaths annually in Great Britain. For children, particularly those living in London's East End, the damage to health is cause for special concern.
Working with research by Professor Frank Kelly, a King's College London expert on lung health and an adviser to the British Government, artist Dryden Goodwin is seeking to raise awareness of air pollution's dangers, especially its detrimental effects on children, with his film Breathe. From October 8 to October 28, 2012, the short was projected nightly onto a huge (8-meter-high) screen in front of St. Thomas Hospital on London's South Bank, a site that, Goodwin explains, was "close to where Monet once stood, repeatedly painting the particular qualities of the diffused light shrouding the Houses of Parliament, and inadvertently capturing for posterity images of London's polluted atmosphere just over 100 years ago."
Goodwin's short, part of the collaborative series Invisible Dust involving scientists and artists, is composed of more than 1,300 pencil drawings by the artist's five-year-old son. As you watch the film, pay attention to how Goodwin animates the head, arms, and torso of the child to relate breathing difficulty.
I hope you find the film as thought-provoking as I did. Its subject is of great importance and one that we ignore to our collective peril.
* According to WHO, "40 million people in the 115 largest cities in the European Union are exposed to air exceeding WHO air quality guideline values for at least on pollutant. Children living near roads with heavy-duty vehicle traffic have twice the risk of respiratory problems as those living near less congested streets." In addition, in the WHO European region alone, exposure to particulates "decreases the life expectancy of every person by an average of almost one year, mostly due to increased risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and lung cancer."