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Documentary film and ethical foodscapes : three takes on Caribbean sugar

Abstract

This article demonstrates how certain stories, voices and values around agro-food networks can be made powerful by documentary film. Our central argument is that documentaries mobilize ethics by presenting a partial and affective account of their subject matter, which makes their audience feel differently about the social relations that underpin the production of food and acts as a focal point for media scrutiny and political interventions. We focus attention on three documentaries about Caribbean sugar to explore multiple and disparate ethical claims made about the farmers, workers and communities that embody Caribbean sugar industries. Through a comparison of the three documentaries, we chart how the production and distribution of these films have entailed quite different ethical narratives, encounters and interventions. A key finding is that the context in which films are received is just as important as the content they deliver. The paper concludes with a guarded endorsement for using documentary film to transform the unequal life conditions experienced in the global food system, stressing the need for empirically-grounded critique of the context of documentaries and suggesting the important role that geographers might play as interlocutors in their reception

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