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Dark Side of Chocolate filmmaker interview

Organizing The Dark Side of Chocolate screenings?  Check out Global Exchange’s behind-the-scenes interview with the filmmaker, U. Roberto Romano, which was published in our most recent newsletter …

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The Dark Side of Chocolate: Behind the Scenes interview with Filmmaker U. Roberto Romano

      In the 2010 documentary ‘The Dark Side of Chocolate,’ filmmakers U. Roberto Romano and Miki Mistrati reveal child trafficking and slavery that continues nearly a decade after the cocoa industry vowed to end this West-African tragedy. Romano is an award-winning photojournalist who has worked with many human rights organizations. He is an advocate and educator on human rights, not only behind his camera but also to the community and world at large. 

       The filmmakers have generously made ‘The Dark Side of Chocolate’ available to Raise the Bar Hershey Campaign supporters for screenings at homes, schools, and congregations nationwide, for which we are deeply grateful. Coordinated by Global Exchange, with our partners at Green America and International Labor Rights Forum, the Raise the Bar Hershey Campaign is calling on Hershey to eliminate child and forced labor from its supply chain and use Fair Trade cocoa, which prohibits these practices.  

GX:  Which scene in the film do you personally find most moving or insightful?

URR:  There are two scenes in the film that, taken together, continue to haunt me and show the institutional indifference to the plight of these children. The first is where we encounter the trafficked Malian boy at a bus station in Pogo, in the north of the Ivory Coast. Alone, abandoned and frightened, the child is crying.  I cannot imagine the fear and desperation that this child must have felt. The cruel counterpoint to this is the scene where Miki interviews Tohe Adam Malick, Chief Secretary of the Ivory Coast’s Department of Labor, who claims “people from those countries come here on vacation”. The disconnect he exhibits from the suffering of these children is profound and chilling. Later I found out that Secretary Tohe was present at a meeting in Washington, DC with members of the U.S. Department of Labor, Senator Tom Harkin and U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, along with representatives from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), to launch a new “Framework of Action” in support of preventing child labor abuses prevalent in cocoa farming. For this initiative, they received an additional 17 million dollars. So it does makes you question just how serious these action plans are.

GX:  What was the most challenging aspect of making this movie?

URR:  In many ways, cocoa is the life-blood of the Ivory Coast, and when you investigate something that is so fundamentally important to the economy of a country, there is a lot of resistance. Poverty and corruption combine to make reporting difficult and dangerous. Let us always remember that Guy-André Kieffer, a journalist that covered the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast disappeared and has never been heard from again while working on a story about the corrupt practices involving the Ivorian government and the cocoa industry. One is always made aware that this is the consequence of asking too many questions.

GX:  What do you hope will be the result of your work on this project?

URR:  My hope is that this film will open people’s eyes to see that in a globalized world we are all connected and responsible and that by being better consumers we can be better citizens of the world. I also hope that the film will move governments and corporations to behave more ethically and humanely. As long as the conditions depicted in The Dark Side of Chocolate exist, we are all of us responsible: consumers, corporations, and governments. We need meaningful change.  Anything short of that is a moral failure on all our parts.

Visit www.globalexchange.org/cocoa to learn more about the Raise the Bar campaign and order a copy of The Dark Side of Chocolate DVD.

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