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Review: Pink Ribbons Inc.

What is being done about breast cancer? A lot? It certainly looks like that in shops. Every imaginable product seems to get on board the Pink Ribbons movement and donate to the organisation occupied with finding a cure for the deadly disease. But what do all these donations actually do? And how does buying a fluffy pink teddy bear help to find out why this illness is spreading? Lea Pool’s investigative documentary Pink Ribbons Inc shows us the possible dangers of a society that is too scared to be critical.

Cross marketing is everywhere, our brains don’t even notice it anymore. Buying a certain type of coffee will help a farmer, buying yoghurt will educate a child. But perhaps once in a while we should stop and ask ourselves more questions about the how and the why, especially when it involves an illness that is spreading around the world like wildfire; breast cancer.

The cause appears to be a poster child for cross marketing, a ‘dream cause’ for marketeers due to its target group and lovely pink look. Every year women all over the world buy pink ribbon products, every year millions of us run, walk and cycle. But what is actually being done with the money that it raises? How come we have not yet found a cure or know more about how we can avoid getting the disease? Could it be that the corporations helping us to find a cure are actually partially responsible for giving women the disease in the first place?

We can’t be sure but one thing is certain, we’ll never know if we remain to be afraid to – metaphorically – bite off the hand that feeds us. Estee Lauder, the organisation (falsely) recognised with starting the Pink Ribbons movement uses ingredients in its products which are linked to cancer. Car manufacturer Ford donates money through their Warriors in Pink programme but fumes on its plants have been said to increase the risk of cancer. These are two major companies investing major funds, but will they be as motivated in finding the cause as they are in finding a cure? Lea Pool’s large and diverse group of intelligent talking heads fear they won’t be.

Critical vs Emotional Support

Of course, the Pink Ribbons movement also brings us lots of good. Some women feel a certain empowerment in the togetherness of breast cancer fundraising events; they like or even need the possibility to be strong and show support and it is beautiful that they can and are.

The most important risk factor after all for getting breast cancer is being a woman, something that is frightfully simple. And it is also this unchangeable factor that leaves us feeling helpless, fearful and in need of ‘doing something’, which we are, as Pool’s documentary recognises. The only question is; are we using the mass mobility this movement sees in the best way possible?

Investigating every angle from every perspective, Lea Pool’s documentary effectively takes a critical look at all aspects of the ‘breast cancer culture,’ and creates a fresh awareness of a problem that we need to get under control before it makes more innocent victims.


Pink Ribbons Inc is playing 27 March and 29 March as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London. For times and cinemas take a look at their website.

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Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentary films, art projects and social inequalities. When she is not blogging or watching films she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.

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