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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

‘Dark Side of Chocolate’ Exposes the Seedy Underbelly of the Modern Chocolate Industry

The+Dark+Side+of+Chocolate+will+be+shown+in+Campus+Center+Ballroom+B+at+4+p.m.+on+Sept.+10.
“The Dark Side of Chocolate” will be shown in Campus Center Ballroom B at 4 p.m. on Sept. 10.

Fair Trade at UMass Boston will show “The Dark Side of Chocolate: Child Trafficking and Illegal Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry” at 4 p.m. on Sept. 10 in Campus Center Ballroom B. The film reveals one of the chocolate industry’s dirty little secrets: an active network of child trafficking and child labor.
The film follows journalist Miki Mistrati as he journeys across West Africa probing for answers concerning rumors of child labor on Ivory Coast cocoa plantations. His investigation begins at an international chocolate convention in Cologne, Germany, where industry representatives appear conveniently unaware of any illegal cocoa industry activity.
As his journey continues, these images of thriving European capitalism are juxtaposed with those of a severely impoverished West Africa. Here, in countries like Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, traffickers prey upon local children, luring them with promises of wages and, ultimately, of better lives.
Mistrati follows a trafficking route that leads from Mali slums to Ivory Coast plantations, and in the process exposes an illegal child labor system enabled by weak industry protocol, corporate complacency, and crippling local poverty.
Accompanied by local activists, Mistrati is able to observe the many facets of the trafficking system. His investigation is comprehensive as he interviews young trafficking victims, traffickers, local government officials, activists, and chocolate industry bigwigs, including SAF-CACAO owner and CEO Ali Lakiss.
At one point in the film, Lakiss challenges Mistrati to “get proof” of the illegal labor practices. Mistrati does just that. Equipped with an undercover video camera, he heads to plantations to uncover the truth.
In terms of filmmaking, the film takes a decidedly no-frills approach. It is an investigative piece that adheres to its mission. Unlike Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” or Michael Moore’s “Sicko”, this film is low key. There is no graphic imagery, nor is there a dramatic soundtrack. What it lacks in excitement and style it makes up for in factuality and authenticity.
The film features some shaky handheld camera work and a good amount of undercover footage, both of which contribute to the documentary’s realness. Viewers will feel that they are truly getting an exclusive glimpse into a dark underground.
“The Dark Side of Chocolate” is a straightforward documentary, and some moments are tragically matter-of-fact. Its linear structure and clear narration allow viewers to easily follow what is a complex chain of unsavory industry practices.
Additionally, some parts were quite moving, including a scene in which a social worker is moved to tears after saving a young Malian girl from what would have likely been a life of slavery.
Overall, the film does a good job at shedding light on the pervasive issue of child labor and trafficking in Africa. It calls attention to a problem overlooked by the average Western consumer. If you’ve ever eaten a chocolate bar, you ought to watch this film.