Nothing Like Chocolate
Nothing Like Chocolate \ Kum-Kum Bhavnani
Chocolate is one of life’s great pleasures. The perfect food, chocolate is fuel for flagging spirits, an inspiration, a temptation and, for some, a sacrament. Yet most consumers of mass-produced chocolate may be unaware of their beloved confection’s dark side. Child slave labour in West African cocoa plantations haunts the industry, which relies on this region to supply nearly 70 per cent of its cocoa, and it persists in spite of commitments to address the problem by the world’s largest chocolate companies.
The Grenada Chocolate Company, a cooperative created in 1999 with the intention “to revolutionize the cocoa-chocolate system,” is the subject of Kum-Kum Bhavnani’s award-winning documentary. Narrated by Susan Sarandon, Nothing Like Chocolate takes an intimate look at the people behind “the world’s smallest chocolate factory.” It also leads viewers on an informative trek into the global chocolate economy, assembling borrowed footage from news reports, other documentaries and interviews with big-picture thinkers such as Michael Pollan and Vandana Shiva. The film succeeds in striking fine balances between being entertaining and educational, disturbing and inspiring – a winning concoction that is poised to change the chocolate-consuming habits of its audience.
At the heart of the film is Mott Green, a self-described “political activist version of Willy Wonka” and iconoclastic founder of the Grenada Chocolate Company. After living in Grenada for many years and seeing the decline of the island’s cocoa industry (due to infestations and hurricanes), Green was inspired to bridge the gap between farmers and finished products by adopting a “bean to bar” strategy, meaning that the chocolate is made where the cocoa grows. The film documents this process, which makes for fascinating and pleasurable viewing.
Bhavnani also focuses on one of the independent farmers who eventually pledges to join the collective, Nelice Stewart, a widowed mother of seven. Like Green, Stewart labours tirelessly; although the work is hard and her pay isn’t high, she clearly enjoys her chosen vocation. A devout Christian, Stewart is surprised when Green tells her that he is an atheist, but her jaw literally drops when he informs her that he pays the farmers in his collective nearly twice the market rate for wet cocoa. Regardless of religious differences, their shared sense of ethics, love of the land and artisanal values hold the promise of a mutually beneficial partnership.
In a world of anonymous industrial products, Nothing Like Chocolate showcases Green’s approach as an example of “how it can be done and done better.”
Nothing Like Chocolate, directed by Kum-Kum Bhavnani, United States: Bullfrog Films, 2013, 68 minutes
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