The Chocolate Farmer
The divide between experience and youth is nothing new in our society. Thanks to globalization many cultures are finding both their history and customs slow disappearing as the younger generation craves the materialistic things that the Western world provides. The lost of identity is a prevalent theme in Rohan Fernando’s film The Chocolate Farmer.
Fernando’s documentary looks at how globalization is ruining a community of farmers in South Belize. Eladio Pop has been a cocoa farmer since the age of 13 with his only farming tool being his trusty machete. Living by the teachings of his Mayan ancestors, Eladios only wealth comes from his cocoa crop and the life he has with his wife and 15 children. Unfortunately for Eladio, his children do not share his views. They do not see the benefits to farm life but are more interested in adapting to the modern world. As his children begin to experience the modern conveniences, the less likely it appears that the legacy of his ancestors, and his cocoa farm, will live on.
One of the interesting aspects of The Chocolate Farmer is how education is viewed as both a gift and a curse by Eladio Pop and his children. Eladio’s kids see education as a necessity to live in the increasingly capitalistic world of today. Getting an education is viewed as a ticket to see the world and acquire material wealth. Eladio on the other hand, sees education as nothing more than a tool to teach laziness and irresponsibility. Eladio works hard every day doing manual labour while his son, who got an education in school, spends most of his time drinking and doing stupid things with his friends. Another aspect that education does to a certain extent is hinder the development of culture. Most of the children who received formal education do not know how to cook traditional dishes, cannot find connections romantically with the opposite sex within the villages, nor would they be able to survive if they had to live of the land.
Although The Chocolate Farmer takes place in Belize its themes are universal, especially in regards to how capitalization destroys communities. Eladio laments on several occasions that the communal aspect of his work is gone. There was a time where farmers worked together to ensure everyone’s crop grew. Now each person works for themselves in hopes of making the most money possible. The ending of the film even alludes to the increasing jealousy growing in the region and the ugly form it takes. Even more damaging is the fact that the land in Belize is being bought up by foreigners. The farmers now have to work harder to pay the taxes for the land, yet have no actual rights to the land they have called home for generations.
If there is one drawback to The Chocolate Farmer is that it merely shows how things are without offering any really solutions. It does not pack that powerful punch that you might hope for given the subject matter. Regardless, The Chocolate Farmer is a decent film that will make think about your own life in regards to the capitalist world we live in.