Nothing Like Chocolate (Kum-Kum Bhavnani 2012): USA

Reviewed by Linda Sweatt. Viewed at the Lobero Theatre, Sant Barbara Film Festivale ,2012.

Who would have guessed? When you eat chocolate you are probably contributing to child labor. Most people eat ‘industrial chocolate’ that is produced in  the Ivory Coast of Africa. This massive chocolate business depends on exploiting child labor.  An estimated 900,000 African children are currently working with the production of chocolate. Another 20,000 African children are enslaved and abused by this massive chocolate industry. Ironically, this is also where some of the best chocolate in the world comes from.

Well, I personally considered myself well educated and well traveled, yet I knew nothing of this horrendous situation. Nothing Like Chocolate is a documentary both heart wrenching and heart warming. The  film writier and director Kum-Kum Bhavani is a UCSB Professor who decided to bring our attention to an enormous problem, while focusing on the solutions. This is a low budget film mostly shot by film students, yet you would never know. It is beautifully done with a wonderful message. She wanted to make a film about somebody doing it right. Nothing Like Chocolate is not only about the way things should be, or the way things could be but rather how the solution is already happening now, and here is the story.

We travel to the Caribbean islands to the small country of Granada. Deep in the rain forest to the worlds smallest chocolate factory. Here lives Mott Green, the anarchist chocolatier, who says, “I don’t believe in God, but I believe in chocolate”.  Mott is the founder, owner and operator. This is certainly is a labor of love as his business is run on a shoe string. With plenty of integrity Mott’s goal is sustainability.  As an alternative chocolate factory it runs on solar power , uses antique equipment and produces delicious, organic chocolate. (My only regret is in not yet tasting this deep, pure dark chocolate)

He strives to empower the local cocoa farmers by including them in his cooperative run business, so the employees are share holders. Outside of this one small factory, the other cocoa farmers must sell their coco beans to the local government for much less money. This fact alone is already improving the quality of their lives. We get an example of this when the film follows one woman coco farmer as she makes this transition.

This film gathers the facts and investigates through interviews. We hear from children who have escaped enslavement, environmental activists, a physicist and even  a nuro-biologist. Very interesting findings about the ancient sacred vales of chocolate as well as the medicinal properties. Chocolate makes people feel good, but modern capitalism has exploited these qualities to become just another addiction.

As a film student myself, I was thrilled to meet the director Kum-Kum Bhavan,  sitting next to me on opening night of the Santa Barbara film Festival.  I thoroughly enjoyed her film and the Q & A afterwards.  I am left so inspired, not only do  I want to travel to Granada and tour the chocolate factory, but I would love to work with the director on her next project. It’s amazing how she has taken a nightmare and given us a dream.

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