Film Review: Pink Ribbons, Inc.

By Jen Thorpe

In North America 59000 women die each year from breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer in the 1940s was 1 in 22, in 2011 itwas 1 in 8. Only 20-30% of breast cancer occurs with women who have known risk factors. Around the world every 23 seconds someone is diagnosed with breast cancer and every 69 seconds someone dies from it.

These were the powerful messages that came out of Pink Ribbons, Inc a film directed by Lea Pool. Her question was simple – we seem to see all of this advertising around breast cancer awareness, and millions are spent each year on products that say they are giving money to breast cancer awareness, so why have we not found out more about this deadly cancer?

In fact, what those interviewed in the film seemed to say was that we know almost nothing new about this cancer since the 80s. So what are all these ‘pink ribbon’ campaigns about, and what do they actually do? Only around 3 – 5% of all research around breast cancer researchers prevention. The rest researches cure. Surely by now we know that prevention is better, so why no push to prevent the disease happening at all?

This film was incredible in the way it built up its case against ‘pink wash’ or ’cause marketing’ by asking simple and interesting questions. It showed how brands and corporates align themselves with the breast cancer awareness raising bus, often still selling products that increase your risk of cancer, or in order to simply sell their product. That’s why they don’t plug money into researching prevention – they’re profiting from cancer.

It was amazing – particularly the interviews with a support group of women who had stage IV breast cancer. We don’t hear much about women who don’t ‘survive’, and this happy soft pink messaging around breast cancer can alienate and suffocate those living with the disease.

This is a film that you should watch if you’ve ever donated money to a cause and wondered what happened to it. Go and see it!

It’s on at the 14th annual Encounters Documentary Film festival at the follow dates and places:

CT: NuMetro V&A Waterfront Tues 12 6.30 | Fugard Fri 15 8.15
Jozi: NuMetro Hyde Park Thurs 14 6.30


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