Unheard Cries of Jamaica

by carleerocha

This short documentary called Life and Debt is very shocking and in some ways quite offensive. It parallels with Jamaica Kincaid’s novel A Small Place, as they both focus on the poor living conditions in Antigua and Jamaica for the natives. But, the way in which the story is told, leaves you feeling guilty and attacked.

It can be disturbing hearing about how Jamaica is treated so poorly by the United States, how the country is billions of dollars in debt and how most Jamaican natives barely have enough money to support themselves, let alone their whole family. It can leave the white viewers astounded to learn of such poverty partially due to the poor conditions of commerce between European and American countries with Jamaica. But, this film is also largely based on stereotypes and it is very opinionated. Life and Debt is narrated using mostly a Jamaican woman’s point of view, but the story is also told using clips of Jamaican natives and politicians. The woman that narrates this film is very criticizing of not just the British and Europeans who colonized their country in the past, but all whites. She talks about how for white people, everything is practically handed to them; they are able to travel wherever they please without having to create a speech of why they want to leave the country or get their luggage completely raided by security as all Jamaicans are subjected to. This may be occasionally true, but she generalizes white people to an extremity. Not all white people have easy lives as she implies with the bashing tone she uses. She should realize that there are whites who have poor living conditions in other countries as the Jamaicans do; she should understand that not all white people are rich and are able to escape to a tropical paradise if they please. This woman who has seen her own people suffer should realize that these same problems are happening everywhere else in the world as well.

It is very well understood that Jamaica is indeed in a crisis; this idea is pretty much shoved in your face as soon as the film begins. But, the story need not be told in such an offensive and aggressive way. It is not doubted that certain white people are to be blamed for some of the problems that Jamaica is having nowadays. But, the film generalizes and attacks all whites instead of specific individuals. The angry atmosphere and tone that the narrator gives off in Life and Debt is very unsettling and simply leaves a bad taste in ones mouth.


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