For many people around the globe, chocolate is a major industry. This year (2016), it is estimated that the global chocolate market is worth $98.3 billion.
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which, logically, grow on cacao trees. Today, the production and consumption of this sweet treat is a complex world trade network. Of the the top 10 cocoa-producing countries, 4 of the top 5 nations are on the African continent: Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast; South American countries like Brazil, Peru and Ecuador are also on the short list. Essentially, mostly countries comprised of a majority (or significant enough) black/African descended population – according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
And with this kind of profitable international trade, exploitation and oppression tend to be rampant. And it is this matter specifically that the documentary, “The Chocolate Case,” tackles.
Produced by BlazHoffski/Dahl TV, the film tells the story of three journalists (Maurice Dekkers, Teun van de Keuken, and Roland Durong) who uncovered child slavery in the cocoa industry and tried to persuade large corporations to end the practice. However, as you can probably guess, they weren’t successful, and so went on to develop what they called the world’s first “slave-free” chocolate bar, Tony’s Chocolonely, which became one of the best-selling brands in the Netherlands.
The journey towards a “slave-free” cocoa world began for the journalists in 2003, as part of a Dutch TV program. The film combines a wealth of archival material with new footage, to reconstruct a poignant history of the industry. The film shows how difficult it is to eliminate basic injustices of a global system. But it is not impossible, the film argues, as the unrelenting perseverance of the journalists carries the film all the way through.
“The Chocolate Case” certainly isn’t the first film to address the industry’s child exploitation practices, and the efforts of the mega-companies that rule over it, to bury any negative press. For example, there’s the 2010 documentary, “The Dark Side of Chocolate” about the exploitation and slave-trading of African children to harvest cocoa beans – something that is still occurring years after the cocoa industry pledged to end it. It was directed by Miki Mistrati and U. Roberto Romano. I found the full film on YouTube, and it’s embedded below.
First, watch a trailer for “The Chocolate Case” (although it’s without English subtitles):