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Pink Ribbons Inc. a Must See
Review by Ralph Lucas, Publisher

<Pink Ribbons Inc - NFB>  

(February 2, 2012 - Toronto, Ontario) It was somewhere around the ten-minute mark in a theatre sparsely populated by members of various Toronto media outlets when it struck me that everyone there had been touched by cancer. It is safe to assume that everyone reading this has been touched by cancer. Friends, family, coworkers, fellow students, friends of friends, it is pervasive. From total unknowns to high profile victims like Terry Fox, we have all lost someone to The Big C. And, most likely, we have all asked why, with so much money going into research, has no one found a cure? Pink Ribbons Inc., doesn't specifically answer that question, but looks at the commercialization, indeed the industrialization of fund-raising to help find a cure for breast cancer. If you have ever donated to any pink ribbon campaign or bought a product because its label boasted a pink ribbon, you must see this film.

This feature documentary from Léa Pool asks Where does the money go? And, more importantly, What does it actually achieve? You'll have to see the film to arrive at your own conclusion, but along the way you will meet some very interesting people who will help you come to your decision.

There are the rah-rah girls as pictured above, who are part of a vast international legion of people who walk, run, bike or partake in some event to help raise money. I'm sure we are all with them in spirit, but in a highly balanced film we also see the corporations on the sidelines at these events launching new pink ribbon-wrapped products <Pink Ribbons Inc.>knowing the symbol has become an icon that attracts consumer's dollars to their coffers. Few people, if any, stop to ask how much money actually gets forwarded to research facilities. Léa Pool does ask and the answer isn't very surprising.

In part this documentary is a history of breast cancer awareness campaigns that date back to the 1940s. You will also learn how the pink ribbon was invented and how a major US corporation liked the idea so much they took it as their own. That was the beginning of the industrialization of fund-raising. Another major player, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, a breast cancer advocacy group, has been in the news this week because of its decision to end funding for Planned Parenthood. The Komen foundation's decision sparked questions about its motives after Planned Parenthood said the action was prompted by pressure from anti-abortion forces. Obviously the film doesn't touch on this latest piece of news, but it does devote a lot of time looking at the power behind this foundation. Komen is known for the pink ribbons it distributed to breast-cancer survivors and participants at the first Komen New York City Race for the Cure in 1991.

We do meet some survivors, but in a series of poignant cut-aways, Pool focuses her camera on a small group of women who have been diagnosed with Stage Four breast cancer. In a film that is full of surreal moments these woman return the action to the reality of the disease. It kills women and these women in particular are going to die. All the <Léa Pool by Ralph Lucas>pink ribbon campaigns in the world cannot help them, did not help them and the feeling of powerlessness is urgent and overwhelming.

There is also a recurring group of woman who appear individually to punctuate the film and push the story along as they talk about a wide range of issues important to them and to the audience this film should attract. They also ask about the unimaginable amounts of money that has been raised, the results, and the benefits. More directly, a few talk about the concept of how a woman can be further diminished when we talk about someone losing their battle with cancer. They ask, not so indirectly, why do we paint these woman as losers? Why indeed.

Léa Pool is not new to documentary filmmaking, but is more widely known for her feature films. In Pink Ribbons Inc., she brings an important topic to the fore and tells an important story using her knowledge and ability to craft a film that is starkly honest about a a subject that has been all too visible but largely ignored for far too long.

<Red Maple Leaf>

Ralph Lucas is the Publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began reviewing films while in radio in 1976.

All images are copyright by their individual copyright holders. The photo of Léa Pool is Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Lucas.

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