Rohan Fernando (Canada, Canadian Spectrum)
Thursday, May 5, 7 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 (350 King Street West)
Saturday, May 7, 7:15 p.m.
Cumberland 2 (159 Cumberland Street)
Sunday, May 8, 1:15 p.m.
The ROM Theatre (100 Queen’s Park)
The Chocolate Farmer opens with the assertion that nobody can explain the collapse of the ancient Mayan civilization. And indeed, while there may be no one, grand, over-arching theory, overpopulation seems to be one of the more reasonable suggestions. And if not reasonable, then certainly thematically appropriate, considering how The Chocolate Farmer depicts the pressures of globalization and modernization on contemporary Maya peoples.
In the jungles of southern Belize, Eladio Pop works his cocoa farm, spending his days hacking through vines with a machete, and labouring to support his family and community. In keeping with ancient Mayan traditions, he tries to encourage his children to relish in the satisfaction of this labour, and in living close to the land. The generational shift signalled by global capitalism, however, frustrates his attempts to preserve both his farm and his culture.
With vivid cinematography of the region’s natural beauty and of less-enticing impoverished areas, Fernando offers a tender portrait of a culture being faced with an “adapt or die” ultimatum by the world encircling them. The Chocolate Farmer elegantly portrays global capitalism not as some Big Business boogeyman, but as a complex system that places complex strains on the Maya.