Stephanie Black

Life and Debt


Thursday, September 20, 2007
7:00 p.m. – Stern Center, Great Room

Film showing and discussion with the filmmaker.
The film features Jamaica, land of sea, sand and sun, and a prime example of the impact economic globalization can have on a developing country. Using conventional and unconventional documentary techniques, this searing film dissects the “mechanism of debt” that is destroying local agriculture and industry while substituting sweatshops and cheap imports. With a voice-over narration written by Jamaica Kincaid, adapted from her book A Small Place, Life and Debt is an unapologetic look at the “new world order,” from the point of view of Jamaican workers, farmers, government and policy officials who know the reality of globalization from the ground up. Co-sponsored by campus academic life (first year seminars/learning communities).

Issue in Context
At what expense comes the global economic domination of industrial capitalist countries? The globalization process currently spreading through the world has many negative effects. In developing countries like Jamaica, many economic policies are adversely affecting the lives of the population. This process is fueled by multi-national economic organizations, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. These organizations give development assistance and loans to third-world countries in exchange for flexibility in trade policies with other countries, and in addition to their compliance with structural adjustment policies (SAPs).

The corporations in Jamaica essentially eradicate local agriculture and industry through their business practices that utilize sweatshops and cheap imports. They are based in richer countries and can afford to sell inexpensive goods in foreign countries like Jamaica, simultaneously forcing out their local competition in those countries. Therefore, foreign companies end up benefiting while the local economy deteriorates. This economic situation has created a wide economic gap in Jamaican society, which is reflected in the beautiful areas that tourists see, and the layer of poverty that lies beneath it.

About the Speaker
Stephanie Black is a renowned filmmaker, and her documentary, H-2 Worker, a film about Jamaican men brought to the United States on an H-2 worker visa and the frightening parallels of their situation to slavery, was awarded Best Documentary and Best Cinematography at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in 1990. The film also won numerous festival awards, in addition to recognition by critics at Cannes. Her inspiration for H-2 Worker and Life and Debt came from her strong belief that the inequitable treatment of the Jamaican people could not continue to be overlooked. Her films have served to educate the masses about the injustices that permeate the world of Jamaicans daily.

Black has also created documentaries for popular shows such as Sesame Street. She has directed videos for such musicians as Ziggy Marley, and for the Making of Chanting Down Babylon, a tribute album to Bob Marley. She has also taught documentary filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Suggested Reading: A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid.
View Life and Debt trailer

Related Links

Life and Debt website
PBS’s Point of View of Life and Debt
International Monetary Fund
World Trade Organization
Third World Network