Last Thursday, the Associated Students Human Rights Board screened the documentary film “Nothing Like Chocolate” followed by a Q&A session with director Kum-Kum Bhavnani, a UCSB sociology professor, at the MultiCultural Center as part of Human Rights Week.
“Nothing Like Chocolate” follows chocolatier Mott Green in his efforts to promote equitable prices and treatment of cocoa farmers in Grenada. Through the film, Bhavnani aims to expose the plight of child slaves involved in farming cocoa beans in order to produce large quantities at low prices.
Bhavnani said the issue of child slavery within the chocolate industry first came to her attention when she read an article on enslaved children forced to harvest cocoa in western Africa. Bhavnani said she was shocked and heavily impacted by the notion that she, as a sociology professor, had never been exposed to any information on this issue.
“I was very cross that I didn’t know about it and so I just started to think, ‘Well, if I didn’t know this, surely the others wouldn’t know about it,’” Bhavnani said. “And that’s what got me going on this film.”
The documentary focuses on not only bringing attention to the issue but also providing alternative solutions, according to Bhavnani.
“The way I wanted to make documentaries was that I always wanted to show how things could be better. Not only look at the problem, but also show that it’s possible to make things different,” Bhavnani said. “The whole film was going to be about doing something about this issue.”
During the Q&A session, Bhavnani pointed to a petition called “Raise the Bar,” which urges the Hershey’s Chocolate Company to only purchase “ethically certified cocoa” from places that are “fair” and do not involve child slavery as an example of a positive step forward.
Non-profits and other forms of certification such as fair trade are the beginnings of what can potentially be done in order to ensure that workers and farmers are treated with decency, she said.
“Small scales can show us the possibility of what can be done large-scale,” Bhavnani said.
According to Bhavnani, the reason the issue is so prevalent is due to a lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of the consumer. She said she wishes for this film to be “out there as much as possible” in order to educate audiences on the exploitation and abuse of workers.
Erika Matadamas, a third-year global studies major and a member of the Human Rights Board, said the film revealed a scarier side to the making of the sweets, which was especially fitting given that it was screened on Valentine’s Day.
“We chose to bring this film because it’s a very good film that portrays that something like chocolate can be destructive in some communities especially in developing countries where a lot of the chocolate comes from,” Matadamas said.
Matadamas said Bhavnani particularly excelled at portraying the issue of mistreated cocoa farmers in a way that attracts student interest.
“I think Kum-Kum does a good job in her documentary portraying the destructiveness and finding alternative ways. We can utilize these simple things and make real change,” Matadamas said. “I love the film. I thought it was very interesting and very captivating, especially for a younger audience [and] especially because a lot of students are looking to watch more documentaries that are a lot more interesting.”