Robin Blotnick has worked as a freelance editor, and as a developer at Walden Media. His current project, "Gods and Kings," is a feature documentary about media, magic and popular culture in the Mayan highlands of Guatemala. If it is anything like his award-winning entry for our ViewChange Online Film Contest — Chocolate Country — then we want to see it! Chocolate Country is a catchy story about a group of guitar-plucking cacao farmers in the Dominican Republic. In the Huffington Post, Blotnick describes the idea behind his work:
“The story I set out to tell was the story of chocolate itself. I wanted to show city people what a mazorca of cacao looks like when it's cut open to reveal its syrupy white seeds. And I wanted to reveal the faces of the men and women who grow and harvest the ingredients for our chocolate bars.”
The short film features the lush, beautiful rainforest region of Loma Guaconejo. The campesinos (farmers) of the area had decided to stop competing with each other against the harsh competition set out by the big cacao companies, and were now working together in a cooperative. They work to directly market an improved, organic product. Blotnick expresses his admiration for their enthusiasm to engage in their community:
“People always remark at how, despite their poverty, the cacao growers in Chocolate Country seem genuinely happy. I believe they're happy because they're empowered. Working together, they're taking some control over the fate of their community. My wish for the people of Loma Guaconejo is that they develop in a way that doesn't alleviate the bad by sacrificing what's good: the freedom of working without a plantation or factory boss, the music and stories they have time to create and share, their ties to the land and, most of all, their ties to one another.
"While being a "conscious consumer" no doubt does some good (or, more accurately, un-does some bad), I'm under no illusion that it's enough. If we really want to transform the conditions that maintain human suffering, we'll have to transform ourselves first, to break out of the passive role of consumer and unite with our neighbors to actively engage the forces of history. In other words, we'll have to be more like the members of the Loma Guaconejo cooperative.”
To hear the music and stories of the empowered campesinos, watch Chocolate Country below: