Life and Debt
Heartbreaking and pertinent documentary about Jamaica's economic misfortunes
Made the year after the launch of the Jubilee 2000 campaign to cancel third world debt at the beginning of the new millennium, Stephanie Black’s agitprop documentary looks at the case of Jamaica. In 1977, fifteen years after achieving independence from British colonial rule, the small island nation was forced to borrow what became $4.5 billion from the International Monetary Fund in order to bankroll its development. But the loans came with trading controls attached by self-interested IMF creditors, ie the western nations, which have in the years since forced Jamaica into ever greater poverty.
Black’s film lays bare the merciless mechanics of the IMF loans system, originally founded at the end of World War II to fund the Allied powers’ rebuilding of Europe, but subsequently used to pillage poor nations around the world. That Black pays tribute to Jamaica, its culture and its people only serves to underline the tragic fate of the country. But the sense of outrage that the film also provokes serves as a rallying cry. And, ten years on, Life and Debt still feels fresh and horribly relevant. All the more so, in fact, given the parallels that can be drawn with what’s happening in Europe at the moment, albeit on a somewhat less catastrophic scale.