Sociology professor Kum-Kum Bhavnani’s “Nothing Like Chocolate” documentary will screen during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at 2 p.m. today in the Lobero Theatre.
Bhavnani parallels the stories of anarchist chocolatier Mott Green and cocoa farmer Nelice Stewart in their quests to manufacture chocolate ethically and undermine the child slave trade and exploitation that plagues the industry. Bhavnani decided to produce the film after reading an article about youths enslaved to harvest cocoa in regions of western Africa, such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
Bhavnani said the film focuses on responsible chocolate producers who treat their employees justly to contrast the workers’ usual conditions.
“I gave the film this angle because I feel that sometimes, films leave us with a sense of hopelessness. The issue is too big; ‘What can I do about the children on the Ivory Coast?’” Bhavnani said. “There are, however, people doing it right, and it is possible to make a difference in the world. I want to show everyone how that’s possible.”
Bhavnani discovered Mott Green and his Grenada Chocolate Company cooperative after researching ethical cocoa production online. Green moved to Grenada from Oregon in 1998 and purchased 100 acres of farmland to launch his socially conscious approach to the industry.
According to Sociology Department Student Affairs Manager Kim Summerfield, a staggering number of major chocolate manufacturers turn a blind eye toward the often inhumane harvesting process.
“[The manufacturers] don’t care. It’s just about the bottom line money for them,” Summerfield said. “[Mott Green] has such a passion to do the right thing in providing quality chocolate as well as economic employment opportunities for the people of Grenada. We as Americans are really not aware of what it takes to create chocolate and the social injustice behind it.”
Bhavnani and five crewmembers took five years to complete “Nothing Like Chocolate.” Financing the film and ensuring it engaged the audience challenged the team, Bhavnani said, though the university supported the innovative idea.
“It was difficult, but I did [the film] when the [sociology] department gave me time off or I was on a research leave because, after all, this is my research,” Bhavnani said. “I’m very grateful to UCSB because it accepts that my research is disseminated into film form instead of book form.”
MultiCultural Center Director Zaveeni Khan-Marcus said the details about the lives of the two chocolatiers added a human dimension to the film.
“‘Nothing Like Chocolate’ is seamless, vibrant and fluid, and I think [Bhavnani] has done an absolutely wonderful job,” Khan-Marcus said. “Chocolate is something all of us love and eat. When you eat a piece of chocolate, though, most of the time you won’t be aware of the child labor issue behind it. That’s what art and films do. They make us aware of what’s happening around us. They make us think.”
Bhavnani said one of her favorite parts of the filmmaking process is watching how the final product is received.
“I love seeing the audience members’ reactions and I love hearing their questions. Questions give you an idea about how they saw the film,” Bhavnani said. “I hope people enjoy the story. I hope they watch it and feel moved to do something.”
A second showing of the film will be held on Sunday, Feb. 5 at 11 a.m. in the Metro 4 Theatre.