Arts

‘Pink Ribbons Inc.’ Bares Breast-Cancer Marketing

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lea Pool’s investigative documentary opening June 1 takes a hard look at the misuse of resources and limits of "cause marketing.” Later in the month "The Invisible War” shines a light on the epidemic of rape of female soldiers in the U.S. military.




Participants at the 2010 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in San Francisco, as seen in "Pink Ribbons, Inc.”
Credit: Lea Pool, courtesy of First Run Features

 

(WOMENSENEWS)--Opening on June 1, Lea Pool’s investigative  "Pink Ribbons, Inc.” focuses on the nonprofit industry that has developed around, and more or less taken over, fundraising for breast cancer research.

Patients with various stages of breast cancer, public health advocates and researchers raise three important points:
 

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No. 1:  "Pink ribbon” marches, marathons and events (illuminating the Empire State Building in pink to create breast cancer awareness, for example) not only waste resources, they mislead public opinion about what’s necessary to treat the disease.
 
No. 2: Financial benefits to research efforts from "cause marketing” (in which brands such as Yoplait and Ford declare themselves "pink”) are minimal, as is the gain from manufacture and marketing of pink merchandise.
 
No. 3: The pink industry’s heavy use of war imagery (describing "battle" against breast cancer, for example) is misleading and harmful to the physical and psychological well-being of those whose cure--and lives--depend on effective medicine, not metaphor.
 
Representatives from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, other nonprofits and cause branders appear in the film to give their side. This is a documentary bound to stir public debate.
 
In "Wish Me Away,” also opening June 1, filmmakers Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf follow Nashville singer Chely Wright as she prepares to come out on "The Today Show," revealing to notoriously conservative and homophobic country music fans—as well as the world at large--that she is a lesbian. This is a brave and very moving film.
 
A performance artist is the subject of "Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present," opening June 13. Matthew Akers chronicles the installation of Abramovic’s exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, renowned for its positioning of nude women and men in doorways, where viewers had to brush by them. Without comment or gesture, Abramovic invites viewers to sit in front of her and experience her mesmerizing gaze, with surprising results.
 
On June 22, Kirby Dick’s alarming "The Invisible War” shines a light on the epidemic of rape of female soldiers in the U.S. military. The statistics are staggering and the crime most often goes unpunished. Women can be further victimized by ridicule, punishment or career damage. The women’s accounts of their experiences are heart wrenching and infuriating. A must-see film.

Narrative Sweet Relief

June’s narrative feature releases bring some sweet relief with heartwarming romances, refreshing comedies and escapist fantasies.
 
Lynn Shelton’s "Your Sister’s Sister” is a sweetly charming contemporary romancedy about the circumstances surrounding young love. Iris (Emily Blunt) sends her best friend (Mark Duplass) to her family’s remote cottage for a vacation. There he encounters Iris’ sister (Rosemarie DeWitt) on her own rest, read and recover retreat after leaving her lesbian lover. Best friend and sister wind up in bed, then Iris arrives the next day to declare her love for her best friend. Plot-wise, the triangle spins in all the right directions and, no spoilers, ends up in just the right place. Opening June 15.
 
Sarah Polley wrote and directed "Take This Waltz,” her second feature, opening June 29. It stars Michelle Williams as a married woman who loves her husband (Seth Rogen), but finds herself inexplicably and obsessively attracted to an artist (Luke Kirby), whom she meets accidentally. He lives nearby and feels the same way towards her. Polley garners superb and subtle performances from her actors, including the usually over-the-top Rogen.
 
Writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s first feature spins on the premise that the world is coming to an end in several weeks, and everyone must decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Penny (Keira Knightly) and Dodge (Steve Carell) set off on a road trip to reunite him with his first love and they have funny and touching encounters along the way--most of all with each other. A potentially heavy subject handled with charm and humor.
 
"Lola Versus," written by Zoe Lister Jones, who also co-stars, is a quirky romancedy about an attractive and successful gal (Greta Gerwig) whose guy dumps her shortly before their wedding. Some funny dialogue and cute set ups; but little depth. Opens June 8.
 
Also opening June 8,  "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" brings a trifecta of adored actresses -- Jane Fonda as the hippie mother, Catherine Keener as the straight-laced daughter and Elizabeth Olsen as the self-centered granddaughter -- together as a family who are trying to work out their relationships to each other and to the men in their lives. Unfortunately the story is so trite and the script so trivial that not even their huge talents and the superb directorial skills of Bruce Beresford can save this film.

Three Empowering Fantasies 

Women and girls are empowered in three fantasies opening this month.
 
Favorite first, opening June 27, is "Beasts of the Southern Wild.” This is an extraordinary
foray into the almost mythical world of a 6-year-old girl. Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané
Wallis) lives with her alcoholic father (Dwight Henry) in an isolated southern Louisiana
Bayou community called The Bathtub, a place beset by impending catastrophic storms,
mysterious and powerful prehistoric beasts and other end-of-days challenges. In
negotiating these dangers and seeking truths in her life, Hushpuppy reveals an astonishing innate understanding about the universe and the way it works and expresses wisdoms that are well beyond her years. Young Wallis' performance has astounding authority. This wondrous film is a must-see.
 
Opening June 22, "Brave” is an animated feature co-written and co-directed by Brenda Chapman and based on her story about a redheaded head-strong teen princess of yore. She resists her arranged marriage and engages in a series of warrior’s adventures, all the while figuring out just what she can really expect from life. Princess Merida’s (Kelly McDonald) struggle for independence and recognition is that of every girl. The script has warmth and humor and the animation is delightful.
 
"Snow White and the Huntsman,” opening June 1, has "summer escape blockbuster” written all over it. But don’t get your hopes up, it's just another Hollywood "cat fight.” The story pits two powerful female characters against each other in a classic struggle of good and evil. The Wicked Queen, played by Charleze Theron, faces off against the young Snow White, played by Kristen Stewart.
 
A large part of the confrontation is a competition for being the fairest in a realm populated by beasts and beastly people, including a pack of dwarfs. With rather spectacular effects, the Wicked Queen does some pretty ugly things while attempting to keep her beauty title. Hollywood has no qualms, apparently, about equating strength of female leadership with beauty at a primal level. Boo, hiss.
 
In addition to covering film for Women's eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for About.com and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, a nonprofit organization of the leading women film journalists in the U.S. and Canada.

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