Documentary film and ethical foodscapes : three takes on Caribbean sugar

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Richardson-Ngwenya, Pamela ; Richardson, Ben (2013)

This article demonstrates how certain stories, voices and values around agro-food networks can be made powerful by documentary film. Our central argument is that documentaries mobilize ethics by presenting a partial and affective account of their subject matter, which makes their audience feel differently about the social relations that underpin the production of food and acts as a focal point for media scrutiny and political interventions. We focus attention on three documentaries about Caribbean sugar to explore multiple and disparate ethical claims made about the farmers, workers and communities that embody Caribbean sugar industries. Through a comparison of the three documentaries, we chart how the production and distribution of these films have entailed quite different ethical narratives, encounters and interventions. A key finding is that the context in which films are received is just as important as the content they deliver. The paper concludes with a guarded endorsement for using documentary film to transform the unequal life conditions experienced in the global food system, stressing the need for empirically-grounded critique of the context of documentaries and suggesting the important role that geographers might play as interlocutors in their reception.
  • References (5)

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    63 S. Kindon, 'Participatory Video in geographic research: a feminist practice of looking?' Area 35 (2) (2003), pp.142-53; S. Pink, 'Participatory video: Images that transform and empower', European Journal of Communication19 (3) (2004), pp. 411-412.

    64 Government of Barbados, Barbados Adaptation Strategy 2006-2014, (April 2006).

    65 In the space of two generations, the number of small cane farmers in Barbados has decreased exponentially, with only 300 or so remaining in 2007 (removed for review 2009). Most of these farmers are now elderly, with few new starters due to the social stigma attached to small farming and the perception that sugar is on the way out. 68 See A. Payne and P. Sutton, 'Repositioning the Caribbean within Globalisation', Centre for International Governance Innovation, Caribbean Paper 1, June 2007.

    71 Freidberg, S. 'Perspective and power in the ethical foodscape', Environment and Planning A 42 (8), pp. 1868- 1874; see D. Mitchell, 'Sugar in the Caribbean: Adjusting to Eroding Preferences', World Bank Staff Working Paper, WPS3802 (2005).

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