Exploring the Breast Cancer IndustryThe numbers of women and men who are afflicted with breast cancer continues to be staggering, although chances of surviving the disease have been increased by the wider spectrum of treatments now available.
This documentary explores the industry that has grown up -- including the development of huge, influential and wealthy nonprofit organizations -- around breast cancer.
Filmmaker Lea Pool does a very thorough job of interviewing leading breast cancer advocates and researchers, and a wide demographic of women of all ages, economic backgrounds and ethnicities who are currently coping with the disease and sustaining treatments to gain back their health. To a one, they all say that the large nonprofits that stage marathons and marches, pink ribbon campaigns and other events to 'fight' breast cancer are wasting money and other resources that should be applied directly to research that would find new, more effective treatments and/or a cure or cures for the disease.
There are also interviews with executives at the nonprofits who speak in favor of their programs. They point to the high dollar totals they raise for research, and claim that the events they stage raise awareness about breast cancer, which results in early diagnosis that enable some to overcome the disease.
Is It A War?
For a wide variety of reasons, the breast cancer advocates and experts who are interviewed -- and many of the patients, too -- strongly object to the way in which efforts to overcome the disease are described as 'the war on cancer,' or as a person's 'battle against cancer.' This complaint is surprising because the war terminology has become so embedded in our culture that it's hard to think of describing coping with the disease in any other way. But their comments make sense, and the film may well redefine the way in which you think of the disease and how one might cope with it.
Corporate Cause Branding
The film also investigates the phenomenon of corporate sponsorship of the charitable nonprofits' efforts to raise funds and awareness. It's evident that corporations are motivated to sponsor charitable events, fund raisers and awareness campaigns because of the positive impact that sponsorship has on their corporate image. What is revealed in the film is just how little money they actually contribute to the cause. The film suggests that before you buy a product because its packaging indicated that a certain percent of the profits will be donated to 'battling breast cancer,' you should find out just how much that amounts to. With brands mentioned in the film, the results are shockingly low.
Additionally, 'pink products' are marketed as though they contribute significantly to the cause of finding a cure. Again, the advocates and experts say these are a wasteful distraction that puts a glamor spin on a disease that would best be thought of, related to and treated as a disease. They say that the 'pink' manufacturers and corporations capitalize on hope and, in fact, put a spin on the disease that is unrealistic, misleading and can be quite negative.
The Bottom Line
Whether you or a loved one have had personal experience with breast cancer or not, this film is essential viewing. It is a very effective and effecting primer about the way in which we think about and deal with breast cancer, and the way in which the disease impacts our lives and culture.
If You like This Film, You May Also Like:
- Orgasm, Inc.
- The Business of Being Born
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- My Neighbor, My Killer
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- Woman Rebel
- Title: Pink Ribbons
- Director: Lea Pool
- Release Date: June 1, 2012 (limited)
- Running Time: 97 mins.
- Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
- Country: Canada
- Filming locations: Montreal, Quebec and elsewhere
- Language: English
- Company: National Film Board of Canada
- Distribution Company: First Run Features
- Official Website