It’s 37 degrees in Paris while Patrick Roger’s chocolatier workshop is busy transporting his sculpture of a Orangutan made of chocolate.
Chocolate melts at 37 degrees, the same as our body’s temperature. Roger explains: “Chocolate acts the way we do . . . It’s a love story.” Roger’s story amongst others features in the food documentary: Semi-Sweet, Life in Chocolate.
It’s African premiere at the Durban International Film Festival gave viewers the chance to travel to three continents and hear multiple perspectives around the complex chocolate sphere. The director, Michael Allcock and producer, Lalita Krishna immersed themselves in the art, politics, production and conflicting ideals on the chocolate coated topic. This documentary took four years to find the most compelling tales that showcase our relationships within the world of Chocolate.
“Someone promised us a better life . . . And because of that we almost lost ours,” are the words from the young girls who chose to leave their home in Mali. Many children are recruited to cross the border into Cote d’Ivoire for the promise of earning money on the cacao plantations.
Cote d’Ivoire produces nearly half of the world’s cacao and most are collected by the hands of young children. The film showcases the stories of youth who were lured by plantation recruiters to earn money that they could never imagine attaining if they stayed in their villages of Burkina Faso or Mali. Most youths that chose to escape to a empty promise land lose their lives due to the conditions on the fields. 80% of pesticides used on the fields are banned in most countries and poison the workers, amongst other working hazards.
A young man who had survived the harsh conditions on the plantations was given some chocolate to taste after he confessed “Frankly, I do not know what they use cacao for.”
It reminded me of an image that speaks so clearly to what their stories portrayed:
From the plantation field, “If you get tired, it’s not like you can rest. There’s a quota and you have to get it.”
The film’s powerful choice to reveal the stories of these young workers allows viewers and activists to wake up to the real effect of consumer power, money and the faceted influence it has on lives that live close to the natural resource.
The truths of gross labour from the voices of these children reveal the dichotomy of youth that collect chocolate from pinatas, Halloween bags and Christmas stockings.
The film introduces the world of Hershey, Pennsylvania where Milton Hershey built a fictitious world that breeds naive ignorance since 1903. Interviews with Hershey’s Public Relations and Marketing Managers expose a honest oblivion to the effects of mass corporate consumerism. Hershey’s profile plays an interesting role in the film, as the town anthropomorphizes into both a naive narrow-minded child and the enabling greedy Uncle.
Sip through the jetstreams to Northern Ontario, Haliburton and your eyes and ears feast on the poetry of Ron and Nadine, raw food enthusiasts and producers of raw handmade chocolate concoctions of Living Libations. “. . . They played and played until nectar was made.” exclaims Ron and his confessions of love for his craft. Light-heartedly, I giggled during scenes of him marketing their ‘out of this world’ chocolate, to the NASA caterers for moon missions. David Wolfe visits their Secret Land of Is, and dives into the food history of cacao, the value it had as currency until 1886 and the health benefits of this concentrated anti-oxidant tree.
Semi-sweet is Culinary Linguistics at the heart-using media to illustrate the language of chocolate that highlight the diverse realities on such a valuable food resource. This is a great film to add to the top must-see food documentaries that evoke awareness and call for change.