DVD and DVD + 3-Year Site/Local Streaming
57 minutes, 2006 Produced by Tom Heinemann
ABOUT THE FILM
WINNER OF: PRIX ITALIA 2007 FUJ-prisen, Denmark Ekofilm, Czech Republic Envirofilms, Slovakia Agrofilm, Czech Republic Festival International du Film d'Environement, France Best Documentary, Ibiza International Film Festival
On April 21, 2007, Tom Heinemann was awarded the first ever "Outstanding Investigative Journalism" award by the Danish Association of Investigative Journalism (FUJ)
The Killer Bargain referred to by this hard-hitting documentary’s title is the availability of cheap consumer goods, imported by Western companies, whose prices don’t reflect the actual human and environmental costs associated with their production in the developing world. Consumers remain largely unaware of the conditions under which the goods they buy are produced; this film makes those connections shockingly clear. While some retailers and manufacturers refuse to talk to the filmmakers, workers, doctors and scientists testify eloquently to the tremendous human costs of globalization.
The film takes as a case study the production of textiles in northern India, from the growing of cotton, through the dying of cloth to its final sale as towels and sheets in European and American stores. A Danish company, Cheminova, produces much of the pesticide used in the Punjab; while it saves crops from insects, however, these pesticides are known to cause cancer and have long been banned throughout the West. There are exponentially more pesticides found in the blood of Punjab farmers than in any other population in the world. Whereas in 1998 there was only one cancer clinic in the Punjab’s ‘Cotton Belt’, there were six by 2004. Representatives of Cheminova and Aarhus University, the largest stockholder in the company, have refused to review the filmmakers’ documentation. The WHO has lobbied for decreasing the use of chemicals and for introducing protective measures. One Indian doctor denounces the purveyors of these pesticides as “merchants of death, marketers of murder.”
The film next moves to Panipat a leading textile producing center, where many retail chains buy their products. The filmmakers were able to gain access to the factory of GS Exports only by posing as an imaginary Scandinavian company, ‘Beautiful House.’ There they find open tanks of fuming chlorine gas, banned in Europe for twenty years and used as a poison gas in World War I, a ‘weapon of mass destruction.’ GS Exports pays its workers less than $60 a month, including overtime; if they join a union, they are fired. Approximately 50 of the employees are children, and the workers are housed in sub-human conditions. Dansk Supermarked wouldn’t speak to the filmmakers but claims that, as a result of their investigations, they have suspended their contract with the factory. ICA, another large Scandanavian retailer, after watching the footage, claimed it would investigate immediately.
JYSK is the largest textile chain in Denmark, outstripping McDonald’s in growth. They buy from Kapoor Industries, a modern plant which discharges its waste water into ponds, polluting the surrounding farmland. The viewer watches as company security stops the filmmakers from shooting, and Kapoor’s executive director threatens them with beating, personally confiscating their tape. In its statement of corporate ethics, JYSK claims to be improving the environment but refuses to confront the filmmakers’ evidence to the contrary.
An economist explains that, often, the availability of cheap consumer goods is due to fact that they were produced by underpaid workers in environmentally destructive plants. Some Indian textile suppliers use environmentally friendly techniques but, because their products cost marginally more, many western retailers shun their products for cheaper goods. Corporations, even those with stated commitments to buy from suppliers that respect their workers’ rights and the environment, cannot be trusted to enforce these principles if their enforcement would result is a cost increase.
A Killer Bargain, like Black Gold, makes it clear that it is up to consumers to hold companies accountable for the conditions under which their products are produced - even if that means a slightly higher cost. An Indian economist points out that globalization may create work in the developing world, but often at the price of shortening workers’ lives. An Indian doctor adds that we in the West should realize that the clothes we wear are often made at the expense of someone else’s life. The film ends with a quote from Gandhi: “There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for one man’s greed.”
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"See this film. A Killer Bargain is powerful, disturbing, and instructive. Consumers need to understand: we are complicit in poisoning the people who make what we buy. Understand, and act."
Joshua Cohen, Stanford University
"This is a searing human rights documentary unveiling corporations profiting from Indian textile production through the massive use of pesticides, which kill indigenous workers and destroy their environment. A Killer Bargain illuminates thoroughly and convincingly the dark side of globalization, one in which desperately needed jobs in the Third World cause the shortening of lives of many working poor."
Micheline Ishay, Director of the International Human Rights Program, University of Denver
"A powerful and illuminating examination of the human price of today's import market for cheaply made goods. Highly recommended."
"A cautionary tale of how cash crops like cotton have turned Third World countries into a toxic hell. A rallying cry for a new economic system where comparative advantage based on exploiting workers and the environment is replaced by a respect for human rights, workers rights and environmental protection."
Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director, Oakland Institute and co-author of Sahel: A Prisoner of Starvation?