Cowlix Wearing my mind on my sleeve

Saturday, April 06, 2002
Life and Debt

Life and Debt: a review of the documentary of the same name which looks at the effect of globalization on the people of Jamaica.

"I guess I thought the IMF was like the Red Cross"

This surprisingly naive beginning was the starting point for Stephanie Black's myth-shattering analysis of globalisation, the film Life and Debt. Set in Jamaica, the film documents how the schizophrenic nature of the island, both an earthly paradise and a crippled nation, is aggravated by the economic trinity of World Bank, IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank.

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AS been much discussion recently of the documentary film Life and Debt. Set in Jamaica and based loosely on Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place , this excellent film is a critique of globalisation. Given the upsurge in the anti-globalisation movement since the Asian Crisis, there is a rapidly growing demand for literature which delves into the 'other side' of globalisation. Thus, Life and Debt's appearance is timely.

Some reviewers have criticised the film as poor documentary, since it shows just one side of the story and makes a caricature of what is a complex issue. The criticisms are apt. Still, I also think they do not detract from the movie's merits. As I said at the Jamaican launch of Life and Debt, I think the film is best viewed not as documentary but as polemic. It sets forth a counter-position to the currently orthodox one on globalisation.

"When you come to Jamaica as a tourist, this is what you will see..."

Most developing countries end up as casualties when one examines the travesties inflicted upon them by huge corporations and ruthless organizations such as the IMF, IADB, and WTO. However, Jamaica is a country that has an international voice and is routinely visited by tourists, making it the perfect paradigm to show the disparity between the "haves and have-nots." Stephanie Black's incredible documentary, "Life and Debt," initially is seen through the eyes of a tourist in Jamaica (with an effective voiceover excerpted from a Jamaica Kincaid novel), to show audiences that Western perceptions about the Land of Wood and Water differ from its harsh realities.

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Copyright © 2001-2002 by Wes Cowley
wcowley@cowlix.com