This year, the Susan G. Komen Foundation got caught in a quagmire when it strayed from breast-cancer activities into a debate about birth control. That story could make a provocative documentary, but “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” focuses on a fuzzier theme: corporate influence in fundraising.
Sponsors are eager to be associated with breast-cancer awareness, particularly the annual Race for the Cure events that happen in cities across the continent. At least half of this Canadian movie was filmed at walk-a-thons, where teams of women wear pink outfits, chant cheerful slogans and consume free samples of female-targeted products.
The party atmosphere is contrasted with cancer patients who say there is nothing festive or inspiring about their often fatal disease. Women in a Stage IV support group share their feelings, and writer Barbara Ehrenreich decries the militaristic metaphors about “battling” the disease.
Yet because the film doesn’t contain a single sobering image of human suffering, the complaints about commercialization and insensitive language seem like much ado about nothing. After all, the walk-a-thons attract thousands of survivors who understand the gravity of the disease, and the Komen Foundation has helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars to study it.
Although the movie asks where the money goes, it doesn’t demonstrate much investigative zeal. Surely there’s more to say about the profit motive of pharmaceutical companies than what’s conveyed by these conventional interviews.
The one area where the film’s execution approaches its ambition is a segment on the environmental causes of cancer. There is evidence that the very products that piggyback on the Komen cause — cosmetics, processed foods and their plastic packaging — can exacerbate the disease. But the thesis that modern life is toxic proves too big for a single unfocused film.
“Pink Ribbons, Inc.” is a colorful indictment of corporate infestation, but it’s missing a prescription.
‘PINK RIBBONS, INC.’
Two and a half stars out of four • Rating Not Rated • Run time 1:37 • Content Mature themes • Where Tivoli Theatre