Review by Frida Runnkvist
Most people would agree that chocolate is delicious. What is not quite as appetizing is the fact that many major manufacturers buy their cocoa from farms where children are sold into slavery. As a response to this, Kum-Kum Bhavnani made ‘Nothing Like Chocolate’ in hopes that it will make a stepping-stone towards an ethical, organic chocolate industry. It addresses issues of the unfair chocolate trade, but primarily functions as a portrait of the late Mott Green: co-founder of the ethical, organic Grenada Chocolate Company.
Susan Sarandon narrates this documentary, which mixes archival footage with interviews with independent chocolatiers, big manufacturers, the Grenadian Prime Minister and more. It also follows Mott and a small selection of farmers in their day-to-day lives, discussing their ideologies, love of chocolate and the exploitive landscape of the industry that has widened the already existing gap between farmers and manufacturers. The quantity of information gathered is impressive but it also results in a lack of focus. Instead of digging deep into a topic, the film only scratches the surface of numerous ones. Mott remains the centre, but it is quite enough to spark the reaction that the filmmakers seem to be seeking.
Mott is an idealist, wanting to be a part of every aspect of the production – even sail it across the sea in an environment-friendly manner. He also wants to give local farmers a voice and even though the aim of the film comes across as somewhat vague, this is where it excels. Without being intrusive, the camera tracks Mott and the farmers as they source their land and go through their daily activities. The documentary also touches on topics like loneliness, love and ambitions as Mott remembers his recently deceased partner Doug, or entertains the possibility of starting a family in Grenada, which give it more of an intimate and genuine tone and makes it moving.
While Bhavnani makes a moving portrait of Mott, few of the people who are responsible for this destructive work ethic are being questioned thoroughly. Consequently people like Gary Guittard: CEO of “Guittard Chocolate” get away far to easily. He is one of many who buy cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast because it tastes better – knowing that it is likely that child slaves have picked them. When questioned about it, he simply states that he purchases cocoa for the Ivory Coast because of the taste, and that is that. The film misses an opportunity to put these mass-manufacturers to the wall, which is what you expect when the film begins by explaining how morally corrupt a great part of the chocolate industry is.
The fact that Green is at the centre that is the sole problem, but Bhavnani should have made it very clear from the start that this is going to be the focus of the film, and not the socio-political situation in Grenade and the Ivory Coast. It is a moving and well-crafted portrait of the activist chocolatier, who tragically died in 2013, but it is not the documentary I believed that I would be watching when it first started.