VOICE OF VANILLA
Women are responsible for much of the farming in developing countries, in addition to taking care of their families. They struggle to grow crops we take for granted in pursuit of a better life. Vanilla is one of those crops, and this is one of those stories
The challenges women face are often overlooked, especially in film. Without understanding what women are going through, we can never hope to achieve an equitable world where women have the rights and pay that they deserve. As a woman, and as a Peace Corps Volunteer who spent time learning the language and culture of Madagascar, I feel it is critical to bring the stories of these fierce women to the world.
80% of the vanilla in the world is grown in Madagascar. Each flower must be pollinated by hand- and they only bloom for 1 day. Once the beans begin to grow, they have to be "branded" and guarded 24/7 to protect against thieves. After harvesting, beans must be cured. The final challenge is fighting to earn a fair price for their vanilla. It is a long and difficult process before farmers make any money.
WHY I HAD TO MAKE THIS FILM
The world is becoming more and more divided, and most of the media is exacerbating the problem. People think of those from other countries as practically being from another planet.10 years ago I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar. During that time I began to realize how similar people are wherever you go. Sure there are superficial differences, like language, food, and music, but at our core we are all the same. I began to think that if people were able to share stories and connect with each other through film, the solutions to the world's most pressing problems would come more easily.
Since then I have been building my chops as a filmmaker and storyteller. Now, more than ever, there is evidence that storytelling changes the world. What does that mean, though, for stories that never get told? Stories of places like Madagascar are never really given the depth and focus they deserve because they're difficult to tell. It's far away, and the language and culture is very different from ours. So being a filmmaker and a woman who speaks the language and understands the culture, I feel a huge responsibility to share this story.
Has there ever been anything more taken for granted than vanilla? The poor vanilla plant, used for so many things, and yet we use the term to mean boring, bland, and ordinary. As it turns out, vanilla is wildly intriguing. It's become so rare and valuable, there's almost a war over it now. The Sava region where it is grown has been described as like the "wild, wild west", and vanilla is the new gold.
Vanilla is an important part of our everyday lives. It's in our food and our drink, as well as our perfumes and cosmetics. We love vanilla. And many people love food documentaries, making this topic the perfect vehicle for introducing the complex and interconnected issues of climate justice, women's rights, and economic transition. At the same time, Madagascar is a faraway place that captures the imaginations of many. What most people don't know is that the people and culture of Madagascar are just as fun and fascinating as the animals.This film is a great opportunity to bring so much knowledge, perspective, and adventure into the lives of the viewers.
Maureen Lee Maloney earned Master's degrees in Biology and International Communication. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar, she received many hours of cultural and language training. She also developed the ability to integrate into other cultures, which will provide her with the opportunity to create an intimate portrayal of the Malagasy people that would not otherwise be possible. Her perspective as a woman enables her to understand and emphasize the gravity of the issues women farmers are facing, and her understanding of the multitude of ways that climate change is impacting our world affords her the ability to connect the big picture of what is happening to the small scale impacts on one family.
Maureen has dedicated her life to environmental protection, from starting a student chapter of the Sierra Club as an undergraduate, to sailing across the Pacific Ocean studying the Giant Garbage Patch with the Ocean Cleanup Mega Expedition. During her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer she worked with local women to develop alternative forms of income, and helped fishermen conserve the coral reef near their village. This is the first of many films she plans to create that will bring the human rights perspective to environmental discussions.
Samson Kaed, Associate Producer
Samson Kaed was born and raised in the vanilla region of Antalaha, Madagascar. Currently he studies Communication in the capital city of Antananarivo. He founded the English Association of the Region SAVA, a program that involves youth in learning and speaking English throughout the Sava region, and is a well known composer under the name SmK' Mikol'Art. Samson has a lot of experience educating others, as a librarian for CLUE, a cultural facilitator at Peace Corps Madagascar, and many other companies. He recently traveled around the world for 6 months with Up With People, and is now working on Bright Top III to develop good leaders in Madagascar. He loves music and helping people.
Thank you so much for taking the time to look at this project. Please help us bring this film to the world by donating and sharing.
With much Love and Appreciation,