Monday, June 11, 2012

New Docs: Pink Ribbons, Inc & Patagonia Rising

French-Canadian director Lea Pool’s lacerating documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc., examines just where the money raised (through the famous pink ribbon campaign and other merchandise tie-ins) for breast cancer research goes—and it’s not surprising to discover that very little of it goes where it’s supposed to. Pool persuasively argues that, despite all the good will engendered by the likes of the NFL—when their players wear pink sneakers, etc. to raise awareness—fundraising actually works against the interest of women fighting this deadly disease because it lines the corporation’s pockets more than anything else.

By interviewing breast cancer survivors like writer Barbara Ehrenreich—who speaks compellingly about the need to tone down the rhetoric about there being a “war” on cancer—Pool touchingly personalizes the issue; that the corporations also make enormous amounts of money by selling items that contain cancer-causing carcinogens while paying lip service to fighting these diseases is just one many sad ironies the film addresses. 

Equally revelatory is Patagonia Rising, Brian Lilla’s urgent expose of a massive dam project that threatens many communities throughout the Patagonia region of Chile. The project, comprising five dams along the pristine fresh-water Baker and Pascua rivers, purports to help millions receive desperately needed electricity, but many experts insist that it will destroy one of the most fragile of the world’s eco-systems, and that alternative forms of energy would do the job just as well and with a lot less possible damage. 

Lilla methodically covers both sides of this battle, even though it’s obvious whose side he’s on. The project’s PR mouthpiece comes off slick and rehearsed, but more troubling are sincere but naive comments from people who live in nearby Santiago, who feel that the dams are needed for their own well-being (needless to say, most of these are from the younger generation). A clarion wake-up call, Patagonia Rising—like Pink Ribbons, Inc.—is cinematic advocacy at its most intelligent.

Pink Ribbons, Inc.
Directed by Lea Pool
Opened June 1, 2012

Patagonia Rising
Directed by Brian Lilla
Opened June 8, 2012

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