CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 11. . . .November 15, 2013
Elisha and the Cacao Trees.
Rohan Fernando (Director). Annette Clarke (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2013.
17 min., 6 sec., Download, Free for CAMPUS members, $5.95 Download HD, $3.95 Download.
Grades 1 and up / Ages 6 and up.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
Chocolate is probably the most popular treat enjoyed by children and adults in North America and Europe, but we rarely think about where it came from. Elisha and the Cacao Trees shows us the life of a 13-year-old girl and her family in Belize and the role that cacao plays in their lives.
This beautifully shot film shows off the stunning tropical rainforests of Belize. Elisha and her family of 17 people live on a farm and use the rainforest for nearly all their needs. Her father grows vegetables, but a great deal of their subsistence and income comes from cacao trees which take years to mature and then seven years to grow each pod. The family consumes the seeds, roasts the beans and turns them into a drink. They also sell beans that are manufactured into the treats we buy at the grocery store.
The video shows Elisha and her siblings helping their father in the rainforests, playing and learning at the same time. It shows how they live off the forest – giant, impermeable leaves can become both a bag to ferment the beans as well as an umbrella to keep off the rain.
Elisha hopes to do well in school and become an archaeologist. But her parents must pay for her education, and the film follows her efforts to get good marks and keep going after Grade 6. When she brings home her report card, viewers see her warm, supportive parents, pleased that she will ‘make something’ of herself through their hard work.
This film is a warm glimpse of a family’s life. In a short 17 minutes, viewers see how the father earns money, how the mother organizes the family life, how the children contribute to the family, how they play and enjoy life, how they go to school and what their aspirations are. The film runs at a speedy clip, but viewers will feel they understand a great deal about the family and Belize by the end.
Elisha and the Cacao Trees can be instructive in many ways – to learn about how cacao is grown and turned into chocolate, to learn about rural Latin America, to learn about rainforests and to learn how children in other countries value education.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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