Life, Debt, and Patronizing

by carlyrough

Life and Debt is a mosaic of scenes woven with strands from both the vision of Stephanie Black, and the hard-hitting non-fiction text “A Small Place” by Jamaica Kincaid. The film showcases tourism and the extreme poverty held by modern day Jamaicans in contrast with the lifestyle of incoming European and North American tourists.
Structurally, I thought the film was excellent. Each scene served a purpose and the transitions were effortless. The music was interesting, and even embellished some of scenes with satirical irony. The popular-known Jamaican music pieces and varied Bob Marley tunes were used to express how little North Americans know about Jamaica’s current situation even when vacationing there. At the five star resorts and hotels the endless fountain of wine and excess food at the buffet takes center stage, allowing paying customers to vacation in blissful ignorance. Although the story was very informative and eye opening, I didn’t believe the aggressive nature with which “you the tourist” was addressed was necessary. Kincaid and Black may not be asking for aid, but I believe a more positive approach may have more impact than insulting the audience. I recently watch “The Cove”, a 2010 documentary showcasing the devastating daily slaughter of dolphins in Japan. The filmmakers never directly placed blame on anyone or attacked the audience, but only aimed to expose the procedure and those in charge. I believe Kincaid and Black brutally stereotyped all tourists without allowing any of them to speak for themselves. I saw a large portion of the film as an uneven playing field in which only one team was invited up to bat.

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