Blood in the Mobile
Directed by Frank Poulsen
Did you know by using a cellphone you are indirectly contributing to the civil war in central Africa? Well, you are, and Blood in the Mobile will prove it. Danish director Frank Poulsen discovered this for himself in 2009 and made it his mission to do everything he could as a filmmaker to bring this issue to the public.
The premise is certainly intriguing: director discovers a certain amount of minerals harvested from war-torn African nations are possibly in every cellular phone currently in existence. Poulsen also gracefully pulls off the classic doors-slammed-in-face approach perfected by Michael Moore, as various Nokia representatives very politely tell him to get lost. After all, this is the kind of problem where there's no singular entity that can provide an explanation or justification. Poulsen confronts the Nokia company in particular, due to his use of its phones and claims of sustainability.
Keeping with the life-risking spectacle looming large in modern documentaries, Poulsen goes directly to the Democratic Republic of Congo and ends up in the mines. Young boys are frequently used to dig for cassiterite, the mineral in question present in cellphones and many other electronics. Poulsen is granted access to Bisie, one of the major sites, via a 14-year-old boy living in the village the director visits.
The footage of the mines, where the boys sometimes stay for days with minimal food and water, is the most harrowing part of the film. Poulsen actually gives his camera to one of the boys, who receives such a frightening level of scorn that a visceral reaction is unavoidable. Poulsen relays a few of the chilling details of the civil war, but doesn't linger on them. Rather, his footage of the cassiterite mine is enough to warrant disgust at the companies using the materials harvested.
Poulsen retains a genuine good humour throughout the proceedings, and a level of self-aware consumer guilt and admitted naivety, creating an endearing character to the audience. He certainly puts his money where his mouth is, though the ambiguous and rather sudden end of the film doesn't leave the viewer with the strongest impression of hope.
Poulsen bravely takes the first step of going against one of the biggest media giants and instantly becomes an activist. Activism is the overarching point of the movie – while Poulsen is an engaging protagonist, the goal is to find a starting point of turning around the major human rights violations every cellphone user has been inadvertently funding.
Poulsen is admirable in not painting Nokia as heinously evil, recognizing that the problem is inherent in the industry and not any one culprit. Poulsen works hard to not guilt his audience, showing his wrestling with the reality of being addicted to the technology he uses even to stay connected as a filmmaker.
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