A film by DerekVertongen
Produced by Nutaaq Media Inc. and DEH Vertongen Inc.
48 minutes, English and French Versions
Scarred by 500 years of slavery and colonial plunder, the islands of São Tomé and Principe are an enigma. Located off the West coast of Africa, they may be the most obscure country in the world. Many maps of Africa don't even show them.
Once famous as major suppliers of cocoa, the diminutive islands haven't been heard of for a long time -- since the turn of the last century.
They became independent almost by accident when Portugal pulled out of its crumbling African empire in 1975.
It is, by all accounts, a strange place, spectacular in its insignificance.
Stories from the Chocolate Islands explores the country and its often mystifying history in a series of short portraits. Together they show the long term consequences of colonialism.
The extraordinary setting tells part of the story: abandoned cocoa estates, overgrown railways, collapsed jetties, closed hospitals and the sleepiest of airports.
The film brings back to life chocolate tycoon William Cadbury who visited the islands in 1908 to investigate reports of thinly disguised slavery. Cadbury's subsequent boycott of Sao TomÈ cocoa had unintended consequences: it helped trigger the decline of the islands -- a decline which hasn't been reversed to this day.
The documentary also looks at present-day São Tomé: stories of islanders who somehow manage to survive in a devastated economy.
We also meet two new kids on the (neo-colonial) block: Gary, an out-of-place American who runs the giant Voice of America transmitter plant on São Tomé, and Monsieur Wu, a diplomat from Taiwan whose job it is to hand out development money.
São Tomé isn't the only country to suffer the misfortunes of colonialism, but it is unique in the way it combines tropical decay, the echoes of slavery and the cocoa trade, and the otherworldliness of its Portuguese heritage.
EXTRA BITTER: Stories from the Chocolate Islands is a unique portrait of a land and its people lost in time.
Contact: George Hargrave at Nutaaq Media Inc, 103 Villeneuve O., Montreal, Qc, H2T 2R6
514-279-1717, fax 514-279-7493, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.nutaaq.com