Life and Debt Stephanie Black

Life and Debt Stephanie Black
Life and Debt is the anti-globalisation movie that had to be made, and its choice of Jamaica as a subject gives a filmmaker plenty of beautiful and heartbreaking footage to choose from. From the perspective of economic analysis, Life and Debt is a devastating critique of how the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and multinational corporations have devastated Jamaica's ability to determine its own economic direction. Director Stephanie Black's greatest success is to let farmers recount their own stories of how IMF policies have forced open Jamaica's markets to huge American and Canadian agribusiness concerns, with which they cannot possibly complete. Black has wisely chosen to interview one of Jamaica's most erudite politicians to explain Jamaica's position on the economic world stage: former Prime Minister Michael Manley. Manley's account of the history of the IMF and the high level quandaries he and his successors have faced is fascinating. While the IMF, WTO and other multinational forces' tactics have crippled countries worldwide, Jamaica is a particularly resonant subject because it is so well known to North Americans. But while the economic analysis of Life and Debt is powerful, the tone of the narration that overlays scenes of drunken tourists is condescending. Yes, these individual tourists are ignorant, and tourism as an industry is degrading to its workers, but it's likely these patrons of all-inclusive resorts face their own declining standards of living at home thanks to the same multinational forces. While their exploitation is not nearly as acute as Jamaica's, their vacations are their opiate from servitude to global economic realities. They're the ones who most need to see this movie but are ridiculed by Black's technique. This DVD would have benefited from subtitles, as certain Jamaican accents might be a bit thick for some viewers. Plus: Anthony B. music video, director commentary, photo gallery, trailer, soundtrack excerpts, extended interview with Michael Manley. (New Yorker, www.newyorkerfilms.com)