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Life and Debt Paper

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Forever In Debt
When Jamaica received its independence from Great Britain in 1962, it had all the essentials of being a new and strong country except for finances. Knowing the newly formed country of Jamaica couldn’t strive and succeed without financial help, Michael Manley (Jamaica’s prime minister at the time) made a few deals with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to borrow funds so the country can slowly begin to grow and survive on its own. The documentary Life and Debt directed by Stephanie Black showed and talked about how the agreements made with the IMF impacted Jamaica and its economy in a horrible manor. The film gave the impression that the audience it was trying to reach out to was the average tourists. The movie always showed scenes of tourists having fun on the beach or doing other various activities, and when doing so it referred to the tourists by saying “You”. That is why I think the Audience for the movie would be tourists. Life and Debt had a fair share of both strengths and weaknesses. One of its most crucial strengths was that it interviewed and shared the story of many different people, who have been impacted by the deals made between Jamaica and the IMF. Like the farmer in the milk industry. This is good because it gives the viewer firsthand knowledge of the issues from someone directly involved in it. Another essential strength would be that the film did a good job describing how the IMF works. This is important because it doesn’t leave the audience wondering about the IMF so much, which lets them focus on the other parts of the movie more. A weakness in the film would be that it didn’t explain or say what exactly Jamaica did with the money they received. This is a flaw because it makes the viewer’s wonder where all the money Jamaica borrowed went. The fact that the movie only focused on and talked about the negative impacts from the agreements with the IMF not about any of the good that came out of it, is another weakness. Having talked only about the bad coming from the deal is a weakness because it makes the documentary one sided. This was especially done with the explanation of the free zones throughout the movie.
The intended audience for the movie Life and Debt is the average tourist. The movie always said things like “You” (Referring to the tourists) land at the clean and nice airport in Montego Bay not the rougher airport in Kingston, Jamaica. This meaning that the airport tourists land in is much nicer and safer than the one in Kingston. There’s parts where it says “You” are at the tourist resort having fun and participating in beer chugging contests, while just outside the tourist resort there are Jamaican families struggling to find food to survive. The scene with the tourists chugging beer and not having any worries is also a good visual argument. It makes you think that the tourists don’t even care about anything; they just wanted to drink and have fun all day. The message trying to be sent out by the narrator is that the tourists who come and visit Jamaica only see the good and fun things of the country, never do they really get to witness or see the bad and ugly that goes on just outside their resorts. This way the tourists don’t think that there is anything to worry about. Then the movie showed scenes from villages and areas outside the resorts where if seen a person’s opinion might dramatically change about Jamaica. For example, in one scene a bus full of tourists passed a little building on the road, the tourists began to look and took pictures of it thinking it’s an outhouse. What the tourists really didn’t know was that so called outhouse was really a school for children. The film did a great job incorporating many different people from Jamaica and getting their story on what happened after the agreements with the IMF, which is one of the strengths in the film.
The film, Life and Debt had many strengths but one of its more critical strengths was the fact that so many people were interviewed and were able to share their story. For example, one Jamaican farmer who was in the milk produce industry was interviewed. This farmer said that because of the Regulations the IMF set on Jamaica and its import export business, he went from producing 3000 quarts of milk a day to 600! He said he had been impacted so severely that he at times had to open up his milk tanks and just dump the milk out because it can’t stay there that long and remain fresh. The movie pretty much showed that only businesses thriving in Jamaica ever since the agreements made with the IMF are coffin-making, tourism, and guard dog training. Interviews of actual people impacted by the IMF regulations are strengths in the movie because viewers get to see and hear it from someone who witnessed it first hand, so they have a better understanding of the affects it had on people.
The movie being able to talk about and explain how the IMF works was also a big strength. The movie stated and described the functions and role of the IMF. For example, the movie talked about how the IMF was set up to help build capital in the rebuilding of Europe. It also talked about how the IMF sets many regulations on a country before it loans a country any funds. The regulations the IMF set on Jamaica ultimately drove Jamaica to becoming a third world country according to the film. It even had a speaker from the IMF (Stanley Fisher) give his views and opinions on Jamaica and all the deals it made with the International Monetary Fund. Mr. Fisher basically said that everything the IMF told and encouraged Jamaica to do was for the best interest of Jamaica. He also mentioned that the IMF is there to help new country’s not bring them down. The film would defiantly help give someone a better understanding about the IMF and how it works. The film lacked on giving descriptions and explaining what Jamaica did do with all the money it received. So I considered that to be one of the weaknesses in the film.
Throughout the entire film it’s never made clear where all the money that Jamaica received from the loans went. It doesn’t say how the money was spent, where it was spent, why it was spent, and who spent it? It just talk’s about how with receiving the money from the IMF Jamaica had to make agreements and do as they were told, which resulted in the economy being severally in debt. It was made clear to the viewer that the loans really hurt Jamaica and its economy more than it helped. So much regulations were set about what Jamaica can export and import due to the loans that it might have been better off not making a deal with the IMF at all. But yet again, never talked about was the distribution of the money received, so the viewers have no idea whether or not Jamaica used the money poorly. The movie also never talked about any good coming out of the agreements made with the IMF, which is another weakness in the movie.
Never hearing about any positives as a result of the loans from the IMF and only hearing the downsides that occurred because of it, is a weakness in the film. All throughout the movie you heard about how the economy fell, jobs were rough, prices were high, and people were treated unfairly because of the agreements and the loans from the IMF. For example, the movie talks about the Free zones that opened in Jamaica in the 1980’s. Free zones were pretty much like factories that were located on the border of Jamaica. These free zones have no tax on their products, and were exempt from custom duties on their imports and exports. The free zones in the movie did a great job showing a visual argument. When they went inside the free zones you saw the workers working in such horrible conditions, and saw all the horrific things they had to do for very little pay. With the help of the sad music playing in the background while the film examined inside the free zones, you couldn’t help but to argue that these free zones were pretty much legal slavery. The movie seemed to have only focused on the negatives of the free zones. Like how the pay was low, the conditions were horrible, and the employers were treated poorly. It never talked about any good coming from the free zones, like the fact that with the free zones opening Jamaican’s without jobs had a chance to get a job there. So without any of the positive’s coming from the IMF loans talked about in the movie, even if there was only a few, it kind of leads the audience watching the film to believe that the IMF is pretty much at fault for all of Jamaica’s financial problems.
Have you ever went on a vacation, and said to yourself wow this place is beautiful it must be awesome to live here? Well after watching Life and Debt you may not be saying that anymore. The movie showed how all the bad and tragic things that occur in some countries are often over looked by people because they only see the beautiful beaches, and well-built resort they stay at. Not all the hostility or problems that happen just outside their hotels when they go there on vacation. Overall, even with the few weaknesses in the documentary Life and Debt it was still a good documentary, interesting and also educating. Stephanie Black did a good job directing the movie by showing people what happened to the country of Jamaica after the agreements it made with the IMF. It got me to realize that there is a whole lot more going on in a country than what you may see while visiting a place on vacation. Hopefully, now it sends a message to its intended audience the average tourist to think about what goes on in a country you visit other than what you do and see while you’re at the resort.…...

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