Posted by lemonjelly on:
A good friend, returning from her holidays with family in Switzerland, brought me a beautiful box of exquisite artisan chocolates a few days ago. She knows I love them. I mean, duh, who doesn't love chocolate. It is a sweet, socially-acceptable addiction. But do we know where it comes from?
If we buy from the big brands, we likely don't know it comes from anywhere but the grocery store, and for an insanely cheap price.
The bulk of global cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. And the news has broke that its industry is enslaving children to harvest cocoa for our high demand of cheap chocolate. The story moved Kum-Kum Bhavnani to start searching for people who were searching for an alternative solution to the social injustice of the chocolate global commodity. She found Mott Green, owner of the Grenada Chocolate Company, a co-operative chocolate factory on the island of Grenada nestled between Florida and Valenzuela.
Nothing Like Chocolate is the endearing story of Mott's company and Grenada's overall progressive measures that empower its individuals to create their own success in chocolate farming, told through the narratives of Mott and of Nelice Stewart, an independent cocoa farmer.
The film is educational, embedding the whole chocolate making process throughout Mott and Nelice's storytelling. They speak to the audience while harvesting the fruits from the trees, explain the differences between wet cocoa beans and dry ones, and proudly point out they invented the simple machinery used to process the beans.
The cocoa beans they produce is some of the most expensive on the market, and this results in a fair wage for the farmers and a reason to be proud of their work.
Life for Mott and Nelice is not always a pleasant walk through a cocoa groves. The film touches on their struggles with the market, with fair trade labeling, through supporting a big family whose children believe farming is for the "old people" in Nelice's case, and the loneliness of being a foreigner in Mott's case. But Nothing Like Chocolate is overwhelmingly positive, reinforced by well-known social and environmental food advocates like Michael Pollan, and Vandana Shiva. Santa Barbara's own Maya Schoop, owner of Chocolate Maya on lower State Street, provides insight into her longstanding appreciation of chocolate and her efforts to ensure she sells honest and ethically produced chocolate.
I met Kum-Kum Bhavnani (on left) at the Saturday morning press and filmmaker breakfast, where I sat side-by-side with Krista Harris (on right), editor and publisher of the Edible Santa Barbara periodical. Bhavnani is a sociology professor at UCSB, and a long-time resident of Santa Barbara. She had an infectuous smile and a twinkle in her eye, and was eagerly anticipating the first showing of Nothing Like Chocolate at the SBIFF, scheduled for Sunday afternoon. She's adorable, and her positive outlook reflects well on the optimistic view Nothing Like Chocolate has in the face of the global economy where traders who've never touched a cocoa tree can make millions of dollars a day without a dime of it trickling down to the growers.
Have a bar on hand of Santa Barbara's own artisinal chocolate company, 24 Blackbirds, because Nothing Like Chocolate will virtually inject you with a euphoric dose of theobromine and leave you hungry for more. As the film says, change never tasted so good.
Nothing Like Chocolate is part of the Screen Cuisine series of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
1:20 PM, Sunday, 29 January, Metro 2
2:00 PM Friday, 03 February, Lobero Theatre
11:00 AM Sunday, 05 February, Metro 4