Life and Debt

"Excellent"

Life and Debt Review


Jamaica is a hot vacation spot. The exchange rate encourages delusions of wealth (approximately 30 Jamaican dollars to one American), the sea is a brilliant blue, the air is warm but lacks humidity. And as tourism is unfortunately Jamaica's biggest trade, foreigners enter and leave with a sense of relaxation.

Life and Debt takes a brassy look at life inside this impoverished country. While normal documentaries take the Sally Struthers approach of underlying scenes of starving children with tearful music, this film guides the viewer with a sarcastic voiceover that brings the troubles home without begging tears to the surface.

The voiceover is written by acclaimed author Jamaica Kincaid. It guides the audience along a tourist's journey and the story of the native inhabitants. Instead of telling you what you are already seeing on screen, it quips, "You don't see what happens after you flush the toilet." This engages a viewer to see and think about devastation instead of merely being told it is there. This strong, sparse storytelling approach runs throughout the film.

Stephanie Black is also intelligent in how she chooses to disclose the problems faced by the locals. This isn't just another talking head show of people moaning about their horrible lot in life. People are interviewed from all sectors of occupation, from field to factory, as well as social theorists and the banking organizations that continue to invest in the country. The variety of discussion perpetuates a compelling internal dialogue with any viewer, whether they are seeing Jamaica for the first time or not.

Of course, as can be expected, the United States is slammed, owing to its involvement with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Officials look moronic as they explain why their plans for Jamaica's economy will help the country back on its feet, but only if they are willing to follow the advice word for word.

The next moment we see why and how each of these initiatives has failed, usually due to imports being cheaper than local labor or whether or not the soil is appropriate for the next agricultural trend the U.S. is forcing on the citizens. Admittedly, some of the back and forth between the business-minded organizations and the failures they produce gets repetitive, but it also drives home the impact ignorance can have on both sides of an international argument.

But Jamaica isn't against the United States, and this documentary does not accuse the U.S. of being the sole perpetrator of its grief. If anything, it begs for a better understanding of the nature of Jamaican society before stepping in to change it based on foreign regulations.



Life and Debt

Facts and Figures

Run time: 80 mins

In Theaters: Friday 28th February 2003

Distributed by: Tuff Gong Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 38 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Stephanie Black

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.