Pink Ribbons, Inc. pulls no punches
A documentary by Léa Pool. Rating unavailable. Opens Friday, February 3, at the Denman Cinemas
Pink Ribbons, Inc. comes from the old school of shit-disturbing NFB documentaries. It names names, takes on massive corporations, and rips into one of the charity world’s most revered symbols of hope.
Director Léa Pool, working from Samantha King’s book of the same name, doesn’t fool around. She intercuts shots of the cheerful, pink-bedecked masses taking part in breast-cancer walks and runs around North America with damning evidence from talking heads, historical footage, and animated graphics. The argument is clear: breast-cancer action has been hijacked by corporate sponsors. As one interview subject observes: “We used to march in the streets, and now you’re supposed to run for a cure.”
Pool follows the issue in countless compelling directions. She’s careful to humanize breast cancer, with moving input from a Stage IV support group full of women put off by the cheery, pink campaigns. She digs into sponsorships with hypocritical motives, from the scandal-plagued NFL trying to clean up its image to Yoplait running a pink-lid campaign while using hormone-cranked milk. More nefarious is a drug maker that funds Breast Cancer Awareness Month while its parent company produces carcinogenic pesticides.
Even those already aware of the ridiculous spread of pink products will be struck by the sheer number of campaigns that Pool intersperses throughout, including the lighting of Niagara Falls (“What does that do to affect change?” someone dares to ask) or KFC shilling fast food in pink buckets.
Only one big complaint: Pool relies heavily on writers and social commentators for her interviews, and there’s a dearth of scientists at the ground level of breast-cancer research.
As for the big breast-cancer events, that’s more complicated territory for Pool to manoeuvre. At one point, we do see a woman, still bald from the ravages of chemotherapy, triumphantly finishing a run. Pink Ribbons, Inc. pulls no punches in questioning where the money being raised is going. But even a documentary this ruthless knows when to pull back.
Watch the trailer for Pink Ribbons Inc.