This week’s Friday Film Pick is a fantastic new NFB documentary opening in theatres across Canada (rest of the world: you’ll have to probably wait a little).
Pink Ribbons Inc goes behind the scenes of the breast cancer campaign (the pink ribbon campaign) and reveals the absolutely grotesque levels of greed and opportunism concerning the corporations who have co-opted the grassroots movement in the name of selling stuff and increasing profit margins. “Cause marketing” as its come to be known, is the cynical and self-interested manipulation of civil society social campaigns, such as raising awareness about breast cancer, by for-profit companies looking to make money and make themselves look good at the same time. It’s a win-win situation for everyone but the women who get breast cancer – many of whom have or will undoubtedly get the disease from using one of the many toxic “pink products” currently being shucked by soulless corporations.
It’s a nasty tale that hasn’t been told, at least in film, and that every single person should know about. Corporations haven’t just co-opted the pink ribbon campaign, they’ve co-opted Greenpeace, recycling, green energy, you name it. Pink Ribbons looks deep into the shadows, giving voice to committed activists whose critical commentaries have been drowned out by pink-clad women yelling “Walk if you love boobs” or “buy pink if you support victims of breast cancer.” Not that critical voices haven’t been sounding the alarm on this issue for some time – the documentary is based on the searing and well-researched book Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy by Samantha King.
The NFB was very wise to get versioning rights to the book, and enlisting iconic Canadian filmmaker Lea Pool, they are making a significant contribution to the ongoing colonization of civil society, public space, politics and social movements by for-profit corporations. The film’s synopsis from the NFB page:
Breast cancer has become the poster child of cause-related marketing campaigns – people walk, run and shop for the cure. Each year, millions of dollars are raised in the name of breast cancer, but where does this money go and what does it actually achieve? And what happens when a company engages in pinkwashing?
Pink Ribbons Inc is not to be missed – see it in theatres if it’s playing near you, or be sure to rent and/or purchase this important and precedent-setting film when it becomes available.