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By Brian Lafferty


June 27, 2012 (San Diego) – Faithful readers know my mother died of breast cancer almost two years ago. In less than three months, she underwent a mastectomy, endured a weeklong stay at a Palm Springs hospital, and a month of ineffective IV infusions. In mid-November that year, she experienced extreme pain that left her in tears. My Dad came home from work early, prayed with her, and then took her to the hospital. She came home for hospice care about a week later and passed away the day before my twenty-fifth birthday.


Those memories rushed through me when I spotted Pink Ribbons, Inc. in the Landmark Theatres screening schedule a few months ago. There will be numerous hotly anticipated films coming up that I can't wait to see and review. These include, but certainly aren’t limited to, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, and Django Unchained. I have a strong hunch, however, that at the year’s end, none of those will be as compelling for me to review as Pink Ribbons, Inc.


Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a passionate documentary that criticizes the recent and rampant commercialism surrounding breast cancer. Director Lea Pool lobs particularly strong accusations against corporations that use the pink ribbon symbol to ostensibly raise money for a cure, but in reality pad their coffers. She spends at least half the time attacking the Susan G. Komen for the Cure for raising millions through their many Three Day Walks for the Cure, but using little of the proceeds to actually fund research. Other topics the documentary addresses include the "Pink" movement and one of the few Stage IV support groups in the United States.


During the end credits, the director asks the breast cancer patients and survivors what the color pink and the pink ribbons mean to them. Almost all of them share my sentiments. They’re both empty symbols to me. They intend to be comforting and reassuring, but I see them only as a reminder that breast cancer is rampant and my mother is dead. You can throw all the pink ribbons you want at me, but they won’t bring her back.


These corporations and foundations do a lot of talking and marketing. Apparently, there’s little action. Pink Ribbons, Inc. doesn’t offer many solutions, but I have a few. Rather than selling pink merchandise and raising awareness of breast cancer, maybe these foundations and corporations should encourage people to exercise and eat healthy. My mother was obese for much of her adult life until she had gastric bypass surgery in 2003. Daily exercise is another answer. As of this writing, I’ve exercised every day the first of May, and it’s made not only a huge positive difference in my health, but it’s been the difference between feeling good about myself and feeling lousy.


Most of this “talking” is by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which generates loads and loads of money by organizing Three Day Walks for the Cure throughout the United States. Everybody interviewed at these Walks are cheerful and excited. A certain irony exists in these interviews when viewed in conjunction with the documentary's sobering look at how millions are raised through these Walks, but little of it actually goes to fund research and a cure.


Last year my sisters participated in the Susan G. Komen Three Day Walk for the Cure. In order to participate, they had to raise a lot of money to be able to walk. On the third day, Dad and I went downtown to watch them finish. At the celebration adjacent to Petco Park, the speaker said, "Everyone deserves a lifetime." Tell that to my late mother.




Pink Ribbons, Inc. is currently playing until tomorrow night at the Landmark Ken Cinema.


A First Run Features release. Director: Lea Pool. Screenplay: Nancy Guerin, Patricia Kearns, and Lea Pool. Cinematography: Sylvaine Dufaux, Daniel Jobin, and Nathalie Moliavko-Visotzky. 97 minutes. Unrated.


Brian Lafferty welcomes letters at brian@eastcountymagazine.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: @BrianLaff.