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Keepers of the Future

In a fertile floodplain in El Salvador, where the great river meets the sea, a peasant movement puts down roots — growing resilience in the scorched earth of exile and civil war. But soon these farmers and fishing folk discover new challenges, and this time they are global: climate crisis, exacerbated by an economy of ruinous extraction. The solutions they come up with will be a revelation for audiences in the prosperous north. On the surface, the life of these campesinos may resemble the past: but in their model may lie the key to the future.

Canadian journalist and documentarian Avi Lewis, along with his wife, author Naomi Klein, has advocated for radically new social and political structures as the only viable and effective response to climate change. In KEEPERS OF THE FUTURE he profiles the Bajo Lempa coordinadora, a farmers' cooperative that demonstrates how 'deep local democracy' can build environmental, economic and political resilience.

'Disaster capitalism runs up against agroecology and community power! Keepers of the Future is a wake-up call for anyone feeling overwhelmed about climate change. A marginalized peasant community challenges corporate power and takes climate resilience into their own hands. A bold, simple, yet powerful tale that gives hope to us all.' Eric Holt-Gimenez, Executive Director, Food First, Author, A Foodie's Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat

'Keepers of the Future documents exactly what it takes to transform the world: working cooperatively to care for ourselves and our ecosystems. Those engaged in environmental regeneration and social justice will gain insights into a working model for an abundant future. We need films like this to provide patterns of organization, cooperation, and exertion for long-lasting community improvement of our places.' Jason Gerhardt, Co-Director, Permaculture Institute, Ecological Designer, Real Earth Design

'People here know what it is to struggle. Despite bullying from economic powers and pressure from the government, despite floods and drought, they resist. As they fish and plow, they generate new possibilities of small-scale, sustainable growth. They reveal a hint of sunlight as danger can seem to loom everywhere. The film offers a hopeful perspective for students and community members who want to move beyond crisis to imagine, and create, a better future.' Dr. Ellen Moodie, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Author, El Salvador in the Aftermath of Peace: Crime, Uncertainty, and the Transition to Democracy

'Keepers of the Future shows how a rural community in El Salvador 'develops' livelihood resilience by taking cues from its natural environment rather than state/corporate interest in capitalizing the landscape for plantation and tourist dollars. At a time when humans face catastrophic ecosystem and climate emergencies, this film's directness in chronicling people's self-organizing capacities offers a compelling didacticism. Public screenings might well focus on how social mobilization changes power relations.' Dr. Philip McMichael, Professor of Sociology, Faculty Fellow, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Cornell University

'Keepers of the Future tells the story of how the Coordinadora del Bajo Lempa, a social movement on the coast of El Salvador, built power and created a good life for their community through deep local democracy. They were able to resist privatization of their lands and the return of exploitative sugar and cotton industries to their region. But even more significantly, they learned to self-organize to protect their people from the frequent flooding and droughts caused by climate change. An inspiring and hopeful film about the power of vision and cooperation.' Dr. Molly D. Anderson, Professor and Director of Food Studies, Middlebury College

'This film brings together two crucial topics that are rarely discussed in conjunction: community organization and the climate crisis...In Keepers of the Future we see firsthand how organizing can overcome vulnerability. This film would be a great addition to syllabi or community agendas related to climate vulnerability and/or community organization and development.' Dr. Michael L. Dougherty, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Illinois State University

'Keepers of the Future can be used in the classroom to bring to life with voices and images several themes: El Salvador's geography; events leading up to the nation's civil war; and El Salvador's political parties and system. A final discussion could examine in local and global context foreign companies' efforts to take natural resources from El Salvador's people. This discussion would focus on how communities that organized themselves during the war have used the strategies they learned to act together for what is best for them, their families and their homes.' Elizabeth Kennedy, Ph.D. candidate of Geography, San Diego State Univ/Univ of California - Santa Barbara

'Instructive for classrooms and grassroots organizations alike, Keepers of the Future offers a real example of how communities can work together to create resilience in the face of contemporary environmental, political and socioeconomic threats.' Dr. Tomas Matza, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh

'Keepers of the Future is not just about a community's struggle against the effects of climate change, but in discovering their own agency. It has a powerful message for all, resonating in particular to youth. I would definitely recommend this film to high school and college students, nonprofits and community organizations. We share vulnerabilities with the people of Bajo Lempa and are inspired by their courage to organize themselves to mitigate against the dangers they face, and to share what they have learned with other communities.' Dr. Richard Navarro, Professor of Education, California State Polytechnic University, former Chief of Party, USAID Project for Productivity through Higher Education in El Salvador

'A spellbinding case study of how ordinary people have said no to elite-driven paths for their future, and have instead built their own community-led, diversified agriculture. Full of insights into how organized communities can foster 'deep local democracy' in place of the environmental, social, and economic 'vulnerability' more typically imposed on them. This film will bring hope to your students, your environmental group, your social justice event, and your wider community. Keepers of the Future will haunt - but in ways that illuminate vibrant and viable alternatives.' Dr. Robin Broad, Professor of Environment and Development, American University

'I know these communities, and what the camera has captured here is both real and inspiring. I enthusiastically recommend this film to community leaders, development and environment practitioners, and educators interested in community-led development, political organizing and local democracy, and environmental restoration. I plan on using the film in a course I teach on rural development.' Barry Shelley, Senior Lecturer of Global Studies, Boston University


Main credits

Lewis, Avi (film producer)
Lewis, Avi (film director)
Roy, Arundhati (voice actor)

Other credits

Directory of photography, Mark Ó Fearghaíl; editored by Eamonn O'Connor, Mary Lampson; original music by Adam White and David Wall.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

Central America/The Caribbean
Climate Change/Global Warming
Developing World
Food And Nutrition
Global Issues
Latin American Studies
Local Economies
Political Science
Social Justice
Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable Development


El Salvador, civil war, farmers' cooperative, building resilience, mitigating climate change, resisting unsustainable development, extractive-based development, extractive economy, fisheries, mangroves, climate crisis, campesinos model, diversified agriculture, sustainable fishing, different vision of development, Hurricane Katrina, emergency planning, emergency preparations, Avi Lewis, Naomi Klein, response to climate change, Baja Lempa coordinadora, environmental resilience, economic resilience, political resilience, small-scale agriculture, self-sufficiency, resistance to wage-based economy, tourism, large scale sugar cane farming, large scale cotton farming, community co-op,Arundhati Roy, Douglas Chica, Estela Hernandez, Aristides Valencia, La Comunidad de Isla Montevideo; "Keepers of the Future"; Bullfrog Films