Film review

Ecofeminist film review: White Cube

This Wednesday you can watch this movie at Eye! If you happen to have a Cineville subscription you can watch it on their online platform Otherwise I hope you can find it somewhere else as I highly recommend watching this. :):) 

White Cube is a documentary by artist Renzo Martens who seeks to empower exploited people and colonised land by means of art. He does this by becoming an ally to citizens of Congo who themselves as well as their land have been exploited by plantations of large companies like Unilever. These large plantation companies are in turn important sponsors of famous art institutes, which makes these art institutes basically being built upon the shoulders of plantation workers. This film questions the cash flows of the art world, and the global inequality it sustains. 

Ecofeminism is the intersection of ecological and feminist issues (check our intro here). This documentary clearly links ecological destruction caused by the mono-culture plantations to colonialism, capitalism, and racial- and gender inequality. The plantations are a problem in many ways, first by the very poor working conditions, such as demanding incredibly intense work combined with long working hours, super low wages and the lack of any job security. Second, violence, rapes, and treason takes place, making the people, and especially women very dependent and unsafe. Meanwhile, the plantations make use of mono-culture intensive farming (e.g. palm oil) which over time destroys the fertility of the land, turning it into a desert unusable for plants and crops to grow. Eventually, ecology will not only be destroyed locally, but also globally by making and selling products to wealthy people on the other side of the world. The plantations in this movie are hence a perfect example of where ecological and feminist issues intersect. 

I must admit I found the movie very very cringey at first, seeing this wealthy Dutch artist arriving at the very poor villages to let them make drawings while they barely have enough to eat. It seemed like the foreign artists starting the projects were totally disconnected from the realities in Congo. It shows in the beginning unsuccessful projects, which made me cringe at first but did give a more realistic view of the proces. Trying to make a difference can be hard, especially when large exploiting corporations are involved that have a lot of money and influence to stop whatever bothers them. Finally a project in another town gets more fruitful, the White Cube project. 

In the White Cube project local plantation workers build a small art school to learn and practice sculpting. They learn to use the local materials to make the most beautiful sculptures. I will not go into too many details about the sculptures to prevent spoilers, but you can see one of the artists making one in the image below. The goal of the artists becomes to buy their stolen land back from Unilever by selling their sculptures. It is so wholesome to see how the exploited, raped, and betrayed people are dedicated to restore and rejuvenate their destroyed land. They want to increase the biodiversity and absorb carbon and therewith help keep earth livable for humans. The artists are incredibly harmed by ecological and social problems, and are now even starting to solve these problems others caused. Not only does this movie make you feel very humble, it also inspires to take action yourself as well as to be an ally.