Kum-Kum Bhavnani is a renowned filmmaker whose award-winning documentary Shape of Water helped open the eyes of many to social injustices, especially towards women in several Third World countries. Her latest film, Nothing Like Chocolate, received a standing ovation at this past weekend’s premiere in Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre. The story tells of the adventures and struggles of Mott Green on his venture to create organic chocolate that benefits everyone from the beginning stages to the chocolate’s final consumption. This week, Bhavnani explains her passion for the film and all of those involved.
Tell us a little about the film.
Nothing Like Chocolate is a film that tells a story about a quirky chocolate maker, Mott Green, who set up a chocolate company partly because he heard of children being trafficked and enslaved in the Ivory Coast, which produces over one third of the world’s cocoa. I decided to make the film because I heard about the children being enslaved and trafficked and I wanted to find someone who was running a business and doing it right. I wanted to show it was possible to run an ethical corporation, to be successful doing the right thing.
Why is this issue personal to you?
I read an article in 2001 that talked about the trafficked children and it made me so upset because so many people love chocolate and I was horrified that I wasn’t more aware of the situation. I wanted to tell the world and inspire people to care about stopping this violation of human rights. Because of who I am, I wanted to show how to get out of these situations and demonstrate how beautiful, ethical chocolate can be created.
What was your favorite part about making Nothing Like Chocolate?
My favorite part was seeing the generosity of people who helped me make it. The crew and editors, everyone just gave their all for the film. I find documentary makers to be very generous people, they lived in quite spartan conditions and the editors and associate producers have just been working away non-stop since day one.
My other favorite part was meeting the people there who are just fantastic. Meeting them opens my eyes to what’s going on in the world and we were able to interview the prime minister of Grenada, and meet hardworking people who felt the need to do something about the trafficking. It has also been amazing to experience the kick start of supporters, and of course seeing the film on the big screen.
I felt very touched by meeting Mott and Nelice. Mott because of his passion and determination and Nelice because of her wisdom, her determination, her perseverance. She is raising seven children all while working hard to keep her organic farm running smoothly.
Does Nelice remind you of your own mother?
Nelice does remind me of my mom actually. My mother was this amazing woman who did not get married until she was 34 and worked to put her brothers and sisters through university. She was very headstrong and passionate and hardworking. She never gave up in believing and fighting for what was right.
What did you want to do different in this film?
I realized that I wanted to make this documentary much more of a story. People get hooked on issues not by having a ton of talking heads, but by meeting people who are doing things. By learning about individuals’ lives they feel like getting personally involved in the issues. This time the documentary was definitely more story driven rather than issue driven.
Mott was given a standing ovation. He is very, very popular. We hope to have a Grenada premiere in June. People can relate. This is a story of someone doing it right, we all have the passion to do something the right way. To implement pure intentions into our work. All of us feel we can’t do it, but you know when you see someone else doing it right we recognize it’s the right thing to do and we know that we can do it too.
Any ideas for your next film?
For my next film I’m just waiting for inspiration so all ideas are welcome. It was a full house yesterday and people can still see it at the Lobero, which is a fantastic Santa Barbara theater. I’m very grateful for UCSB for its support of my research and for everyone involved. I’m just enjoying the ride now and I hope people are as touched by the film as I was making it.
Nothing Like Chocolate screens again on Friday, February 3, 2 p.m., at the Lobero Theatre and Sunday, February 5, 11 a.m. at the Metro 4.