Blood in the Mobile (D: Frank Piasecki Poulsen; Denmark, 2010)
This is the sort of film that I didn't particularly like, but because of its subject matter, I feel somehow obligated to qualify my criticisms in spite of its content. Call it white guilt, but there does seem to be a nagging feeling that eats away at my conscience and makes me feel very awkward about writing a negative review of Blood in the Mobile. As though if I were to write about not liking the film, I would somehow be implicated in supporting the exploitation and subjugation of the Third World. I am obviously not in favour of the exploitation of people in Africa by large corporations. However that doesn't make Blood in the Mobile an especially good film - worthy though its cause may be.
This, latest from Danish director Frank Piasecki Poulsen, is a plodding, heavy-handed affair that for all of the intensity of its subject matter, falls spectacularly flat. It is an utterly lifeless film.
Delving into the fairly explosive subject of conflict minerals used in contemporary electronics, Blood in the Mobile attempts to illustrate this global problem in its own evasive sort of way. For those not in the know, your cell phone requires certain types of minerals in order to operate; minerals that only can be obtained from certain parts of Africa, and which large corporations such as Nokia - in their savage crusade to cut costs - accrue from cheap labour overseen by warlords and other unsavory characters. Essentially, as the film points out, your cell phone more or less directly funds civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Unfortunately for Blood in the Mobile, Poulsen delves little into the actual process by which these minerals are brought from poor miners in Africa to rich CEOs in Europe, the United States and Japan; he also doesn't bother to explain why contemporary electronics require the minerals, and his portrayal of how the miners are actually affected by this process is both extremely short and vague. Instead, like a more cerebral, European Michael Moore, Poulsen spends the majority of the film trying to prod Nokia executives into admitting that they are involved with the procuring of conflict minerals - something they are obviously unwilling to do on camera, if at all.
Anyone who's watched even one documentary of this genre knows that multinational corporations are never going to tell the filmmaker anything, so it seems a little bit naive on Poulsen's part to posit this aspect of the film, for whatever reason, as its centerpiece. This becomes tiresome very quickly, as by the time Poulsen returns to the Nokia head office for a third visit, we already know what's going to happen because we've already seen him do it twice.
It, naturally, must be said that this is certainly a worthy subject to draw attention to. I even came dangerously close to dramatically chucking my battered LG into the Don River shortly after the screening. However, what this film made me realize is that important though subject matter may be, simply engaging in grand global issues does not necessarily a good documentary make. I hate to say it, but presentation and execution must be taken into account. At the end of the day, Blood in the Mobile is, for lack of a better word, boring. That's about the long and short of it.