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27 April 2021

Vanilla Wars.

by Jason Stone


Short Films: “Radio Vanille” - 11 mins 23s

It's extraordinary that a commodity like vanilla can be so valuable that it creates a trail of misery in the country where it is grown. Jack Laurance's biting documentary provides a compelling insight into the reality of life in Madagascar, which is responsible for 80% of global vanilla production.

The exploitation of commodities found in developing countries is the story of colonialism, and 'Radio Vanille' savagely reveals how the power imbalance between the greedy West and the rest of the world continues to generate suffering.

It seems especially ironic that an ingredient whose name is still used as a synonym for an absence of flavour should have become such a highly valued commodity. All the more so because its very voguishness is founded on a modern apatite for authenticity where once a synthetic facsimile would have sufficed.

Jack Laurance's roving eye restlessly investigates the many facets of the disturbing impact that the vanilla's value has on the ordinary citizens of Madagascar. His film darts here and there trusting the viewer to piece together its components into a coherent understanding of a grim situation. It's a clever styling because it enables the film to get under your skin and forges a connection between a purchase made in a supermarket thousands of miles from the centre so much trouble.

It is not an easy watch, and neither should it be… but it's a really worthwhile investment of your time, and a highly effective attack on the cognitive dissonance which facilitates the brutality behind this market.


Film Production: Armoury Ⓟ Ⓦ
Director: Jack Laurance

David Reviews is hand-crafted by Lovely Lenzie Ltd, 7 Seven Sisters, Lenzie, Glasgow, G66 3AW. Editor: Jason Stone. Phone: 0141 776 7766. E-mail: jason@davidreviews.com.