Synopsis by Ryan Shriver
Documentarian Karin Junger investigates capitalism and emerging organized labor in Africa in her 2001 film Mama Benz and the Taste of Money. In Western Africa, financially well-to-do women prefer to wear brightly patterned clothing known as batik, which is usually thought of as originating from Africa but for the better part of the previous century has largely been mass-produced by a company from the Netherlands called Vlisco. For decades, Vlisco has been exporting its product to Africa while arranging wholesale agreements with local market entrepreneurs -- all women -- who have had varying levels of success within the Vlisco distribution machine. Many women have been made wealthy, and are thus labeled as "Mama Benz" due to their ability to own the luxury cars of the same name. But this success has made competition within the marketplace unbearable, while Vlisco capitalizes on this same competition with stringent and almost unreasonable purchasing agreements, forcing many of the tradeswomen to contemplate uniting for better bargaining power. Mama Benz and the Taste of Money was included in the programs of a number of film festivals in 2002 and 2003, including the Utrecht Film Festival, the Vancouver Film Festival, and the Margaret Meade Film Festival.