INVISIBLE HANDS Film Review

INVISIBLE HANDS is directed by Shraysi Tandon and written by Tandon and Chad Beck. The film is produced by Tandon and Academy award winner Charles Ferguson. Cinematography is by Yuanchen Liu, Erik Shirai, and Selase Kove Seyram and editing by Chad Beck. Music by Sofia Hultquist.

Opened at the Cinema Village, 22 East 12th St New York City. Opens November 30 in Los Angeles.

 


 

This debut documentary by Shraysi Tandon shines a klieg light on the predatory child labor practices and child trafficking that provides big American corporations – such as Proctor & Gamble, Walmart and Uniliever – the kind of slave labor they need to make products as inexpensively as they can – to be sold in American stores for big profits. The slave laborers, kids as young as 5, are treated like animals.

Do American consumers of the goods produced by slave labor nurtured by big corporations like Proctor & Gamble, Walmart and Uniliever know about this? If they did, would they care? Do something about it? INVISIBLE HANDS features gut wrenching testimonies of children from as young as 4 to 17 slaving away in countries like India, Vietnam, Ghana, the United States and China where that country’s factories producing smartphones disguise their child slave labor practices as internships; children must work before or after school. Even in the United States, children as young as 6 can be seen picking tobacco leaves from sunrise to sunset. In 2015 Oxford University’s Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco  reported that the amount of nicotine absorbed in the bodies of kids working in tobacco fields greatly exceeded the nicotine levels in individuals who smoke regularly.

Girls bundling tobacco leaves they harvested in Lombok, Indonesia. Picture courtesy First Run Features

Tandon is a film director, writer and producer who worked as a TV news reporter and anchor for networks such as ABC News, CGTN News and Bloomberg TV, according to film publicity. She has covered world events such as the global financial crisis, Australian elections, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the World Bank/IMF summit and the United Nations General Assembly. She was born in New Delhi and raised in Indonesia, South Africa and Australia,

Continine is a chemical compound formed when nicotine enters the body. A comparison of cotinine in urine from nonsmoking tobacco farmers and non-farming tobacco smokers showed that nonsmoking tobacco farmers had a higher Urinary Cotinine Level of 341.9 ng/ml – over 2.5 times more. One worker, 15, says in the film that she throws up in the fields where she works and that she wakes up to rashes on her body. Tobacco leaves are sprayed with dangerous pesticides. Yet, tobacco companies such as Philip Morris International do not take any responsibilities for health risks to workers.

The film starts with scenes of children squished into tiny rooms to make fashion accessories. It subsequently introduces us to Kailash Satyarthi, founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan – Save Childhood Movement. The organization fights to end child labor and human trafficking. We are also introduced to Ghana’s Anas Aremeyaw Anas, an investigative journalist who helps conduct police raids in child trafficking rings. Despite the efforts to end these heinous acts of injustice, child labor still is a driving force behind global consumerism.

Children using machetes to harvest cocoa in Ghana. Picture courtesy First Run Features

Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil made from palm oil fruit. It can be found in everyday household items such as shampoo and food snacks such as Oreo Cookies. Scenes with rapid shots of hundreds of products using palm tree oil are shown to illustrate its ubiquity. It can extend shelf life of goods, and 80 percent of the world’s supply is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. Half of Nestle’s products contain the substance. The consequences are devastating; rainforests are destroyed and children do hazardous work alongside their parents.

Harrowing tales of kids trapped in slave labor and treated as animals – this kind of documentary released in time of for the holiday season? It is no coincidence the film was released on the largest consumer day in America. The great Elie Wiesel has been quoted as saying, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustices, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” This film, according to Tandon in a press release, “is my protest against the perpetrators who exploit the most innocent, vulnerable and voiceless members of society – our children.”

Background Information for the following Characters and Interviewees in the Film Provided by Big Time Pr

Kailash Satyarthi is an Indian children’s rights activist and the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, which he shared together with Malala Yousafzai. Satyarthi is the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement), the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, Global March Against Child Labor and GoodWeave International. Till date, Satyarthi and his team have saved over 87,000 children from child slavery and trafficking.

Nicholas Kristof is a columnist for the New York Times covering human rights and global affairs. He has won Pulitzer Prizes along with many humanitarian awards. He has co-authored several books.

Anas Anas is a Ghanaian investigative journalist who uses his anonymity to expose human rights abuses and anti-corruption across Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa. Foreign Policy magazine named him as one of 2015’s leading global thinkers and he was also given the Heroes Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery award by the U.S. Department of State for his contribution to end human trafficking.

Ghanaian police offer on his way to arrest a child trafficker. Picture courtesy First Run Features

A child laborer taking a break in Rajasthan, India. Picture courtesy First Run Features

Ben Skinner is the founder of Transparentem, a nonprofit organization that focuses on eliminating human rights violations and environmental abuses from global supply chains. Prior to Transparentem, Skinner was Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and also was a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard. He served as Special Assistant to U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and worked as Research Associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Siddharth Kara is the Director of the Program on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, an adjunct lecturer in Public Policy and a Visiting Scientist on Forced Labor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Kara is also the author of the award-winning book trilogy on modern slavery, Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery, Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia, and Modern Slavery: A Modern Perspective.

Mark Barenberg is the Professor of Law and Director of the Program on Labor Law and Political Economy at Columbia Law School. Barenberg has been a principal draftsperson of many federal and state laws regulating labor conditions in companies supplying U.S. manufacturers and governments. Barenberg is a member of the International Commission on Labor Rights, the Law and Society Association, and the Labor and Employment Relations Association.

Margaret Wurth is a senior researcher with the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, where she focuses on child labor and health. Wurth has undertaken research on hazardous child labor in gold mining in the Philippines and in tobacco farming in the United States, Brazil, and Indonesia. Wurth’s op-eds have been published in The Guardian, CNN, The Progressive Magazine and HuffingPost among other notable outlets.

Andreas Harsono is an Indonesian human rights advocate and has been the Indonesia Researcher for Human Rights Watch since 2008. A journalist by background, Harsono has earned recognition for his reporting related to human rights and justice issues and was the 2010 recipient of the John Rumbiak Human Rights Defender Award. Harsono is also the co-founder of the Pantau Foundation, a journalist training organization based in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Director Shraysi Tandon. Picture courtesy First Run Features

 

 

Sangeda Alin can be reached at Sangeda.Alin65@myhunter.cuny.edu