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Despite its close scrutiny of the breast cancer movement, Pink Ribbons, Inc. isn’t as caustic or alarmist as it could have been. The documentary’s central message—that Komen, Avon, and other groups are all wrong in approaching the cause with an emphasis on comfort and good cheer—easily could’ve been presented as an emotional screed. But instead, Léa Pool’s film is a deliberate and incisive case against big philanthropy’s coziness with corporate objectives. The target isn’t the camaraderie of Race for the Cure fundraisers—the average pink-clad walker is generally presented neutrally—it’s the fact that the movement has removed anger from the equation, because anger doesn’t go well with selling yogurt or sneakers or cars. As writer Barbara Ehrenreich, author Samantha King (whose 2006 book gave the film its title), and others point out in the film, breast cancer is an ugly thing, hope is just an illusion for many victims, and throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at a “cure” might not be as wise as putting more money into studying means of prevention. Those critiques won’t give anybody the warm fuzzies, but Pink Ribbons, Inc. certainly has the public interest firmly in its heart.
The film opens June 8 at E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. See showtimes for times and theaters.