Bill Haney’s devastating documentary, The Price of Sugar, explores the plight of migrant Haitian sugar cane cutters in a hostile neighboring Dominican Republic. Cutting cane at gunpoint and virtual prisoners in barbed wire concentration camps, these sugar slaves are starved, beaten, disappeared, malnourished, riddled with internal parasites and lacking in decent housing and uncontaminated drinking water, even ironically as other far more privileged foreigners frolic in the waters of the tropical tourist paradise nearby.
The Price of Sugar is the story of these exploited and abused Haitian workers, and also the story of defiant Spanish rebel priest, Father Christopher Hartley, and his struggle in the face of death threats to champion the union rights and human rights of these terrorized migrant workers. Narrated by Paul Newman, this is a scathing yet inspiring documentary about these enslaved men, women and even children toiling on plantations owned by ruthless sugar cartels who also control media and banking interests in the country.
Numbering in the tens of thousands, the Haitians are stripped of any personal documents so that they’re unable to leave the plantations without being subject to arrest. Many are not even allowed to return to Haiti after the harvest, because the sugar companies find it substantially cost effective to detain them permanently, rather than transporting them back and forth illegally across the border between the two countries.
A really significant issues that comes to the forefront in The Price Of Sugar, is just how the light skinned elite that controls the sugar industry, has managed so effectively to turn Dominicans against Haitians, when both are poor, workingclass and with shared African roots. With substandard conditions of existence for all to go around, in addition to sugar corporation control of divisive propaganda through the corporate media, setting these two impoverished cultures against one another rather than confronting the source of their shared misery, effectively enables this unfortunate process.
Father Hartley succeeded in gaining some minimal improvements for these people, mobilizing the Haitians themselves to agitate for a few basic union rights, humane housing, food and some health care. But he has since been ordered back to Spain by the Catholic Church. Which, strangely enough, seems to consider struggling to defend the poor against exploitation and oppression far more of a Church scandal than say, pedophilia.
An essential documentary exposing criminal collusion of corporate interests, governments and the media in the Third World, and a blueprint for struggle against economic tyranny. More information is available online at: ThePriceOfSugar.com.
New Yorker Home Video
DVD Features: Scene Selections; Featurettes: Doctors Without Borders: Hard Labour: Vulnerable And Pregnant In Port-Au-Prince; Latin American Maternal and Infant Health Initiative; Theatrical Trailer.