It was a tense few days for those who admire the work of Planned Parenthood. After the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it had instituted a new policy that would refuse funding to organizations under Congressional investigation, it was announced that Komen would not renew its grant to Planned Parenthood.
At the heart of the sex wars over birth control and abortion,
Planned Parenthood is known for never refusing services to those who couldn’t pay.
After robust public outcry, Komen has reversed its decision, saying it will only refuse funding for organizations after investigations have proven “criminal and conclusive in nature. (Per the LA Times, “The congressional inquiry was launched in September by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) to determine, among other things, whether Planned Parenthood has used public money to fund abortions. Although Planned Parenthood receives federal money, that money can’t be used to provide abortions.” Even if the investigation showed monies were used improperly, it’s unlikely that the case would be considered criminal.)
At the exact moment Susan G. Komen released the news, Indiewire was speaking with 2011 Toronto International Film Festival “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” producer Ravida Din about how her film helps to contextualize the world of pink capitalism and philanthropy.
“Pink Ribbons, Inc.” critiques the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the industry surrounding the pink ribbon campaign for turning cancer into a marketing ploy. It also takes the big pink-ribbon players to task for concentrating funding on the pharmaceutical industry and preventive measures that ignore problems that would change the way some people do business. For instance, the organization does little to combat industry-produced carcinogens. The film opens in Canada this weekend, in conjunction with World Cancer Day, and will head to a few festivals in the coming months. First Run Features will release the film in the US.
Were you surprised by the recent news [that a Planned Parenthood grant would be defunded]?
I was actually surprised! Our research focused on who gives money and how is it spent. To see a news story about why funding gets pulled and why partnerships are broken is interesting. It helps us give pause to which companies and organizations we are aligned to.
How did you all come to this project in the first place?
It all started seven years ago. I read an interesting article by Barbara Ehrenreich. She gave a very interesting perspective on the breast-cancer culture we’ve created today; it spoke to me. I started to read a number of articles, and eventually read Samantha King’s “Pink Ribbons, Inc,” which we based the film on.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
We’re hitting theaters this weekend in Canada – starting today. I’m curious to get more of the general public response. The response online and at festivals so far is very good. People are having more conversations about this subject. People are not looking at the pink ribbon in the same way; we want a new debate around this issue.
What surprised you during the making of the film?
A lot surprised me. I would say that what surprised me was the lack of coordination in all of these agencies looking for a cure. Non-profits, health organizations, and cosmetic companies who get involved, all promising a cure for cancer, they’re not working together to get a cure for cancer. There are no standards or questions around accountability. There is very little focus on primary prevention. The prevention work that is done is screening and lifestyle change as prevention, as opposed to investigating what causes is it in the first place.
And what do you think of all of the public response to the recent news?
The conversations are “What’s wrong anyway with fundraising… isn’t it better than doing nothing?” People that do participate in these events or who run at these events feel that they’re doing a good thing. What the film looks at is: That’s fine, but we need to dig a little deeper, ask a few questions about where the money is invested and what the outcomes are. What do we do now? The public response to this news is heartening to see. The film deals with complacency. It’s important to do something. If you don’t agree with, for instance, manufacturing projects that are linked to the disease, write to companies and ask questions!
What are you hoping to do in the coming months with the film?
I think that “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” will give people a larger context around the breast cancer industry — how it contradicts the message we are sending to the public about the disease. Simply focusing on awareness isn’t enough anymore.
The Canadian trailer for Léa Pool’s “Pink Ribbons, Inc.”
A clip from “Pink Ribbons, Inc.”: