First-time documentarian David Redmon takes an unusually cinema verite (well, with the addition of rather non-verite subtitles on occasion) approach to what would otherwise have been yet another dry-as-dirt, dull-as-ditchwater tract on the evils of globalization. Rather than preach on the topic, he allows his footage to speak for itself — crosscutting footage of Mardi Gras revelers with footage of the Chinese factory workers who make the brightly colored beads that are part and parcel of the celebration.
The point is, of course, that in general we don’t pay much attention — or even give much thought — to just where most of the things we buy originate, nor the conditions under which they were made. Letting the footage speak for itself is a good idea in this case. Not only does the Chinese businessman who owns the factory where the beads are made hang himself with his own words about how happy his workers are and how well they’re treated (you might almost believe he buys his own line of guff), but far too often the Mardi Gras partiers reveal that they frankly don’t care where the beads come from or how they’re made.
To many of the revelers, it’s a nonissue because it doesn’t affect them. As far as they’re concerned, the only possible issue is whether or not the promise of those shiny plastic baubles will persuade women to show them their breasts. Deep, a lot of these guys are not.
Not all of the people interviewed about the beads are unconcerned. Notably, the outrageous “Miss Pearl” has wondered about the workers who make the beads before she even learns the point of the film.
It’s a rare documentary that makes you just a little bit ashamed of our conspicuous — and utterly thoughtless — consumption without actually telling you that you should be. And, blessedly, it offers no pat solutions to the situation; it merely records it. Redmon never pretends that he has “the answer.” Kept to a tight 70-minute running time, it’s a textbook case of getting in, making the case, keeping it entertaining and colorful, and getting out.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke
[The Skyland Arts Cinema in Hendersonville is opening the film for its theatrical premiere on Friday, Oct. 28, with director Redmon and Miss Pearl as guests for the evening show.]