Good Intentions?

by harperjamie

The initial tone of the movie Life and Debt by Stephanie Black can be witnessed not by the inviting and joyous images of tourists, but through monotone voiceover by Jamaica Kincaid. Although the tourists are seen to be enjoying themselves, the film quickly dives into a scene of grim perspectives on the subject of their economy, all-the-while showcasing overfed and ignorant tourists. As Black portrays it, the self-absorbed tourist has the ability to virtually see Jamaica the way they want, a way that can only be considered a paradise inside the walls of their high-class hotel. To the less self-absorbed tourist, the option is present to take a guided tour through Jamaica, slums included.

The way the film shows the ignorant tourist, whether considered as self-absorbed or not is almost offensive. The film constantly tries to present these people in such a way that makes them appear as if they are committing a crime while enjoying their week of relaxation. The way that the film says ”When you sit down to eat your delicious meal, it’s better that you don’t know that most of what you are eating came off a ship from Miami” seemingly portrays further ignorance and irresponsibility on behalf of the tourist. Although the film does show a glimpse of the tourists who are focus on the poverty stricken – what can only be considered as hidden – lands, the film seems to pass those off as those who are wishing to take enjoyment out of others misfortunes. The way that the film shows the guided tours and the cheerful, friendly manor of the tour guide almost makes light of these tourist good intentions.

Due to the constant attack by the film on the Jamaican tourists, it seems as if Black would consider Jamaica a better place without them. Black showcases the tourists plentiful meals, relaxation in the sun and casual beer drinking contests in relation to the poverty stricken lands of Jamaica; Black is attempting to create even more animosity by the viewer towards the tourists through this contrast. The part that Black fails to shed light on is the importance of the so-called ignorant tourists. Tourism plays a vital role on Jamaica’s GDP and without them Jamaica’s economy would be in far worse shape. Yes, as Black mentions the IMF and other agencies have played a large part in scuttling the economy of Jamaica, but it can also be widely agreed that tourism plays a major role in keeping Jamaica from becoming a failing state. The amount of jobs that the tourism industry creates, whether it be the managing and developing of the high-class hotels or guided slum-tours catered towards the ignorant tourist, each and every enterprise provides at least one job that they would not otherwise have.

Although Blacks film can be considered as an informative and stimulating documentary of Jamaica’s hardships, an avid tourist may be well advised to stay away. Black does not allow for an image of a responsible tourist to be created, which can, as expected, create great anger and offense to the viewer.


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