Life and Death

by aaronbui103

Life and Debt is a 2001 American documentary film directed by Stephanie Black. The film examines the economic and social situation in Jamaica and how the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank’s lending policies impacted it. These loans soon plunge the country into a bigger debt which left them stranded without any resources to dig themselves out.

The film starts with the arrival of vacationers to the country. There were variety of food, music, and recreational activities available to these people. To the eye of the tourists, Jamaica is the place for vacation. Little did they know, Jamaica is in a great financial crisis that soon will jeopardize its economic growth and the country as a whole. When Jamaica turned to IMF for loans, it came with conditions. It could only spend a small percentage on health care and education. The country had to remove tariffs and limitations on imports and exports. Furthermore, their currency must be devalued. Due to these conditions, it had attracted many foreign companies to operate and sell in Jamaica. As a result, it drove out the Jamaican’s local agricultural market. Markets such as carrots, potatoes, milk, and bananas were seriously affected. Another section of the film covers the creation of “free trade zones” in Jamaica. Corporations were allowed to operate without paying any taxes and using the Jamaican labour force to their advantage.

Stephanie structures her film around a hypothetical Caribbean vacation that contrasts the lightened faces of the tourists in Jamaica with the gloomy reality of what is actually happening. She takes us through the hardship that the farmers had to face and then ends it with the “free trade zone,” a cruel labour system that the Jamaican had to endure. Showing us things may not be the way we see it.


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