Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ghosts: Migration and Consumption...

This week, on More4, there was the first TV screening of Nick Broomfield's film GHOSTS, which is about the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle pickers off Morecambe Bay in 2004.

The MORECAMBE VICTIM FUND has been set up to raise money for the vitims' families. It features video and other information related to the victims of the tragedy, along with a comprehensive range of media articles.

This has a lot of links with both geography, in terms of migration and work on consumption, and also Norfolk, where the main character in the film ends up working for a gangmaster picking vegetables for supermarkets.
I came across this very interesting description of a response to the film in the Light and Shade blog of Lianne. Hopefully she won't mind me repeating this short section:
"More than 24 hours later I still feel somewhat shaken by the experience. Despite the harrowing scenes, a more mundane moment particularly stuck with me. Ai Qin is picking spring onions and casually asks someone where they go when they are picked. She's informed that they are sent to Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco. At the Q&A after, Nick Broomfield revealed that he posed undercover as an illegal, picking spring onions as part of his research, and the onions he picked were indeed going to British supermarkets. Sitting on my bus on the way home, it occured to me I hadn't been shopping and had nothing in for dinner. The thought of going to my local Sainsbury's made me shudder - how can I buy my fruit and veg from there when the agricultural workers supplying this produce are so exploited? My thoughts then turned to the organic vegetable boxes I sometimes order, or the farmers markets I buy from. And I remembered the scene in the film when a local farmer picks up Ain Qin and the others for a days labour, picking apples. There's so much focus at the moment on organic produce and ethically sourced produce, how do you really know that no one has been exploited in the process of getting that produce from a field in Norfolk to the fridge in your flat? Among the many questions this film raises, this was perhaps the most powerful for me, boiling it down to the lifestyle choices I make.

As if all that were not uncomfortable and shocking enough, the film had another unpleasant truth in store - the revelation that the families of the Morecambe Bay victims are still struggling to pay off the money lenders to whom their relatives turned to pay for their passage to the UK. They have lost the principal earner and are threatened by the money lenders. The British government refuses to help."

The film will be repeated several times more on More4 before being shown on Channel 4 later in the year. There have been some criticisms of the film, but it remains a powerful representation of the issues surrounding international migration.

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