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September 25, 2005

What You Should Do

You should see The Constant Gardener, even though the cinematography and editing will almost give you an epileptic seizure.

UPDATE: Speaking of the rapacious exploitation of other countries by Europe, En Ming Hee in comments mentions the opium trade. So here's a question: which U.S. president's family fortune came from opium?

This is #90,412 on the list of things they don't teach you in school.

Posted at September 25, 2005 11:19 PM | TrackBack

Fernando Meirelles has been doing that since his first film, the brazen, daring CITY OF GOD. Anyone seen that?

Posted by: En Ming Hee at September 26, 2005 03:04 AM

I haven't seen it, and think I may be too busy recovering from my seizure to do so.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at September 26, 2005 08:36 AM

I don't really care for films with that kind of frenetic editing; it seems to me de trop. But that's my particular preference. I love slow, quiet ones, most recently Toni Takitani, though others have complained that, short as it was, it put them to sleep.

What I would like to ask is whether anyone knows of any documentation of an actual case of an activity by a pharmaceutical company that might have served as the basis of the novel/film: a company testing a bad drug on Africans, and then hiring goons to murder an activist who was trying to research it. I'm well aware that the pharma giants screw Third World countries in all sorts of ways, but I'm a little dubious that they have ever done precisely this. I suppose it was a plot that le Carre put together to dramatize the evils of the pharma industry.

Posted by: jonj at September 26, 2005 09:33 AM

Good question. How badly, exactly, do pharmaceutical companies screw third-world countries? Should we turn this over to floor?

Where's En Ming Hee when you need him?

Posted by: Sully at September 26, 2005 10:04 AM

I would like to believe the things I read about in The Constant Gardener are a dramatization, but I am a little afraid they are not. I mean, as an observer of American society I myself notice how medicated it has become. I have no doubt this kind of overmedication and development of dependence is happening all over the world...a more advanced form of 19th century opium dealing if you like.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at September 26, 2005 10:58 AM

The True Story of How Multinational Drug Companies Took Liberties with African Lives
The pharmaceutical industry is bracing itself for criticism when the film 'The Constant Gardener' opens next month. But Jeremy Laurance reports that away from the Hollywood script is a true story of how multinational drug companies took liberties with African lives with devastating consequences.

Posted by: govcin at September 26, 2005 12:28 PM

Yes, but has GlaxoSmithKline or AstraZeneca, for example, ever actually used Africans as guinea pigs with no regard for their safety and then put out a contract on an activist poking her nose into the dirty business? (At least that's what I *think* was going on in the rather confusing film -- I haven't read the book.

If you're making a thriller, that's fine. But if you're really trying to educate the public, you ought to be able to provide documentation to back up what you're claiming actually happens. I looked on the film's web site to find such documentation, but didn't find any.

Posted by: jonj at September 26, 2005 12:33 PM

The experiment on black men in the US in the 1950's (I think that's when it was and it also had to do with the voyeuristic sadism of creeps curious to see what happens to untreated/mistreated syphillis) was just about as bad as can be. Would it have been worse if it had been done in another country? Would that ligitimize fears/fantasies that the powerful can and will do what they can when no one is looking?

Posted by: Turtlebox at September 26, 2005 05:53 PM

Calvin Coolidge.

Like I said, Tom Friedman is right, internet connections work so well in Singapore, and we have been trained in using the internet in nearly everything we do, that it's just "bing!" and I can find what I want. Sweat it no more, Jon...

Posted by: En Ming Hee at September 26, 2005 07:36 PM

You mean they should have made the flick about old Cal? That would really have been a thriller.

Posted by: jonj at September 26, 2005 08:06 PM

Calvin Coolidge? Really? Please explain more. I actually was thinking of another president.

Maybe there are two U.S. presidents whose family fortunes came from opium.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at September 26, 2005 08:55 PM

I thought I could put links into my comment above, but they don't seem to be working. Where I said "blather here" the link should be

Where I said "Skull and Bones" the link should be

Posted by: Bob at September 27, 2005 08:24 AM

Actually, given that opium was in fact a legal medicinal drug at the time and that even children abused it in England, I am not so sure trafficking in it would really have been a crime at the time...

Say, and aren't you American lefties the ones who want pot legalized?

Posted by: En Ming Hee at September 27, 2005 10:58 PM

"Decriminalized." [Smiles vapidly into camera.]

Posted by: Sully at September 28, 2005 11:34 AM

I think we should call it partial birth decriminalization, as a show of sympathy with Planned Parenthood clinic bombers. We have values toooo!

Posted by: Harry at October 1, 2005 06:08 AM