Life + Debt = Death

by disentrance

It has become everyday language for a person to make a reference to Africa when it comes to wasting any kind of resource, and Life + Dept is the culmination of all those references made into a documentary.  Produced in 2001 and directed by Stephanie Black, Life + Debt is inspired by Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place and the movie voices out the plight of the Jamaican people and how they put out blood, sweat and tears into their back-breaking, nine-to-five jobs in order to make ends meet –but more specifically, this movie centers around the economic crisis that Jamaica has been undergoing during the past years.

The movie starts off in a similar fashion as A Small Place where it gradually captures the audience’s attention by attacking its audience with very visual graphic media footage of explosions, riots, and families in ruin with death hanging right around the corner. Furthermore, Life + Debt also labels the tourists as the enemy by showing scenes of them being ignorant, and taking advantage of the country; but it doesn’t have the same impact as it does in the book since the tourism industry is still a source of revenue nonetheless and having the emotionless narrative excerpts doesn’t really adds to the solution.

There are also several employments of irony used in Black’s documentary and she implements it whenever possible in several scenarios: showcasing the aforementioned media footage followed immediately by a random ice cream commercial, exposing the tourists having fun while natives are laid-off, presenting the International Monetary Fund’s statements and then follow up with a counter-argument immediately afterwards, and finally, broadcasting the big riot while the tourists get back on their plane.

Life + Debt’s focus on globalization aspires its audience to become more aware of Jamaica’s economic downfall caused by factory foreclosures, job layoffs, meat monopolies, foreign imports, franchise competition, farming difficulties and the failure of the free trade of bananas being experienced. It is of no wonder that with the abundance of tourists and foreigners that caused all these difficulties creates so much hate towards foreigners, and also being run by a corrupt government does not add to the list of progress. These people have lost so much hope to the point that even the prime minister goes to describe his people as “walking contradictions”.

The audience of this documentary is specifically targeted to any developed country’s citizens, in order to inform them of what’s happening in the grimmer places of the world that they live in. Life + Debt reaches out to the audience emotionally to get them to realize how the daily things that they take for granted can become an exclusive privilege to others. The goal of the movie is obviously not to be taken literally and create extremist movements in the Caribbean, but rather to inform the viewer, and engage them to start taking little steps towards rescuing humanity from the endless cycle of poverty.


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