Note: Our Crowdfund has now finished. Huge thanks to everyone who has supported the film. If you'd like to help please email email@example.com and we can send you details. All rewards are still available and we are, of course, happy to speak about other ways we can work for change together.
We'd like you to come with us on a shopping trip to India.
The journey starts with nearly 300,000 Indian farmers who have killed themselves to escape debt. At one point, up to 26 per day. They are the price we pay for cheap cotton - trapped in a cycle of debt, brought about as a result of the industrialisation of their livelihoods. Some kill themselves by drinking the pesticides with which they farm.
At the heart of the film will be the human stories of the people who work the fields to form the threads of our moral fibre. We will ask "when you bag a bargain, who pays for it?”
Documentary journalist and troublemaker Leah Borromeo is making a film about fashion and its real victims. She is on a mission – she wants to make ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry the norm, not the exception, by making the supply chain transparent. And she is on a journey to find out how to make this a reality.
Leah will follow the thread of our clothing from seed to shop - from farmers to brokers and bankers to the factories and manufacturers through to the labels we love to wear. She’ll show the environmental and social impact of the intense use of pesticides, will engage in the debate around genetically modified seed, investigate the concept of fair trade, explore the viability of organic cotton and probe the structures that make the rich rich and the poor poor. She’ll emphasise the need for traceability and accountability in the fashion industry.
The journey ends with us – and what we can do not just to look good, but do good. So, this is a campaigning film, but not one which hits you with a worthy stick. Leah’s a troublemaking Situationist journalist and friend to The Yes Men, Reverend Billy and the Space Hijackers. She never does things by halves and so the film will be quirky, funny and have a subversive twist. Think Newsnight meets the Yes Men.
"A funny, poetic film about cotton's dark secrets? Bring on Dirty White Gold. A movie like this can let far more of us know the political economy behind what we wear. And although knowledge is the first step to action, the brilliance of this film is that it also shows action! So it's not only action, it leads by example. Get it made!" -- Mike Bonanno, The Yes Men
"We are all implicated in the terrible conditions that Indian cotton farmers work in. Behind the glitzy surface of our high street shops are the desperate lives of Indian farmers. Many end in suicide. This important film directed by Leah Borromeo shows us the reality of the blood soaked cotton we wear and its origins we prefer not to think about. It is vital that this film gets made so that we become unavoidably conscious of our human connection as consumers of cotton to the tragedy that is engulfing its producers." -- Peter Kennard
Want to be in on the game? You can make it happen: every £1 you give now will unlock another £3.
Here's the financial score: A big private foundation is willing to put in £25,000, but that's only if we can match it. We have already raised £10,000 from a film development fund – so we need a further £15,000* to raise the £25,000 to unlock the match fund, which will give us a grand total of £50,000.
The team behind the film has a pretty good track record in making films which help change the world and, working with NGOs and advocacy groups, devising the distribution and outreach strategies to help achieve this ambition. But we do need to get the funds to get started.
We’re offering incentives which we think have real value - of course there is a bit of a donation involved, but there is a great designer T-shirt (in organic cotton) by Barnbrook, a limited edition print from photomontage artist Peter Kennard and, of course, the first DVDs or downloads of the film. And everyone who donates will get a free download of Dr D's exclusive artwork "Rotten Cotton" [if you'd like a signed piece, we can arrange that too - just check the rewards list for how].
How serious are we?
Leah Borromeo, the film's director, says, "This isn't a sombre documentary that will throw guilt trips at you. We're going into the darkest heart of the fashion industry and bringing you stories glossy adverts would rather not show you. We have a sense of humour - and it's an uncomfortable one because we won't sell you rainbows. We will make you angry and we want to use that to engage you. We're serious about the issues and serious about changing the playing field so people don't have to kill themselves to make our clothes. When you leave the cinema, we don't want you to say "oh dear, such poor poor people". We want you to say "let's do something about this."
This film is a Dartmouth Films production in association with The Cotton Film Company. Dartmouth has a long history of award-winning social change documentaries that make a difference from "The End of the Line" and "Fire In the Blood" through to "The Battle for Barking" and John Pilger's "The War You Don't See".
So how serious? Read this: www.newint.org/blog/2012/10/10/india-cotton-farmers and urbantimes.co/2012/10/cotton-film-dirty-white-gold
"Dirty White Gold exposes the dirty secrets that we walk around with on our backs every day. This is a kick ass film highlighting the systematic violence that we dress ourselves in everyday. It does more than piss you off, it changes how you understand your connection to the world and the people who live in it. Borromeo is one badass troublemaker. She gets to the point, she makes it and she does something about it. We dread to think what she'll do if this film doesn't get funded. So help a sister out." - The Space Hijackers
The Director: Leah Borromeo. A former foreign news editor at Sky News, Leah brings over a decade’s experience in broadcast journalism and a Live Art degree to documentary. Having recently finished a commission of ten short films on arts activism for Channel 4’s Random Acts, she’s mashing up solid newsgathering with a keen eye for the creative and the absurd. She is also a contributor to the likes of The Guardian, the Index on Censorship, the British Journal of Photography, Juxtapoz Magazine and a host of print and broadcast outlets from Canada to China and New Zealand.
The Director of Photography: James Demuth. Jim worked as an in-house senior editor and producer for Vice.com for four years before going freelance. He is now a documentary director / shooter / editor working out of a studio in Hackney Downs - mainly working in the short film format. He edited the feature film Swansea Love Story and has had work featured at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. He has two cats with as many braincells between them.
The Executive Producers:
Christopher Hird is known for some of the most successful campaign documentaries in recent years. Successes include Rupert Murray's multi-award-winning The End of the Line, which revealed that the world will run out of fish by the middle of this century unless we do something about it; The War You Don’t See, presented by John Pilger; and The Flaw, the untold story of the credit bubble which caused the financial crash.
Emily James is an award-winning filmmaker once described as a "genius" by the Guardian. Having recently completed Just Do It - a feature-length documentary getting under the skin of climate activists which has played in cinemas all over the world. Emily is a graduate of the NFTS, has extensive experience in film and television and brings a wealth of practical and critical working knowledge to this project.
Others on board:
The UNEP, The Yes Men, Reverend Billy and choir, Space Hijackers, Barnbrook, Peter Kennard, Dr D, Popbitch, Goodone, Alexandra Groover, the Ethical Fashion Forum, THTC, Pesticides Action Network, The Otesha Project, Bleeding Cool, Bhopal Medical Appeal, Souled Out Studios, War Boutique, Sabcat, Northern Comfort, The Organic Textile Company, The Brand Trust, Born to Kiln & many more. [Drop us a line if you want to get involved with the film and/or the little naughty plan we have up our sleeves.... firstname.lastname@example.org]
If you want to find out more about the Souled Out Studios sale in aid of this film [where you can pick up some sick originals, one-offs and limited editions from Beejoir, Luc Price, MauMau etc], pls head here:
*Our target here is £18,000 as we need to raise the £15,000 to make £25,000 plus an extra £3000 to cover the material costs of the rewards we are offering and also the VAT we will have to pay on the money we raise through this appeal.
All the money raised will be used to cover the costs of production, develop the project further, hire crews in the UK and in India for upcoming shoots, build partnerships, raise awareness and develop narratives around the issue.
There...said it...with nearly 300 backers and 89% of the project funded we want to send all of you a big thank you.
The campaign closes at 6pm London time this Friday. If you haven't already shared it with your friends, emailed it to your lists or blogged about it, do please get in touch. We have a team here [well Cressida, Matt and Leah] who are willing and able to give you all the info you need to help spread the word.
Peter Kennard's just finished his print for the film...and it looks like it will be the movie poster too. If you know of anyone who fancies a limited edition piece from this master of montage, then please direct them to this page! [We'll be uploading a rough of the image shortly - the final image still has to be tweaked with the printer].
But it won't end there. After a nice long bath and a little nap we'll be putting all your contributions to good use by cracking on with production.
We also have a new website coming up on http://thecottonfilm.com [it currently redirects to this crowdfund page but once it's done, it won't].
For those of you awaiting your perks - we'll be cracking on with those too....
But please don't forget that this isn't the end of it - we've got to make the film and we'll be calling on you again to help us when direct action season kicks in.
Welcome aboard for the ride everybody...it's gonna be a good one - and one where we'll compel the right people to make the right changes for human rights.
Thanks again all,
Leah, Christo, Cressida, Matt, Jim, Ruchi, Shweta, Peter, D, Jonathan, WB and the rest of the gang.
...and we've had some amazing feedback. We've hit 40% of our target! But we still need your help.
If you haven't already, please encourage your friends and family to spread the word about the film. You can change lives for the better.
We've found direct emails and blogs have been the most effective way to engage with people. Like this story, it's most powerful when you can put a face to the words.
Here's a few handy links to the crowdfund, the trailer and a story in the New Internationalist:
We've also had some great words of support in from The Yes Men, Peter Kennard, The Space Hijackers, Barnbrook and Dr D. More to come soon...here's a sample:
If you'd like to let us know what you think of the project and if you'd like to get involved with any direct actions and/or any part of the filmmaking, please drop us a line on email@example.com.
And don't forget to spread the word! We're nearing the final push and we can only get there with your help!
All the best,
Leah, Cressida, Christo and Matt [and the rest of the gang]
Hey gang -
With the help of some amazing folks at Souled Out Studios [who did a little street art fire sale and raised around £3k for us] we have now hit over £6000...that's 35% of our crowdfunding target. Amazing work everybody who has given large and small - we do love watching the total tot up day by day.
Just writing to update you about a piece I wrote for the New Internationalist on the film and farmer suicides. Here it is for you:
Also just finished an interview on Resonance FM's "I'm Ready for My Close-Up" show and did a little piece for the Occupied Times.
We should have a few more bits and bobs coming out soon too...like War Boutique's print and something from Palestine.
Some people have asked who is producing our t-shirts. It's a worker's co-operative in Birmingham called Sabcat. They've printed t-shirts for me before and use 100% organic cotton etc etc.
Oh...and some more good news.... Peter Kennard and I have been quite involved with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and their push to get the National Gallery to stop taking funding from arms company Finmeccanica. And today, that very thing happened. So rah...this campaigning stuff works yeah? http://www.caat.org.uk/press/
Thanks very much again everybody...and please don't forget to keep spreading the word to your friends, family and complete strangers. Here's the link to remind you all: http://www.sponsume.com/project/cotton-film-dirty-white-gold
All the best,
Leah and the team
Street artist Dr D [or his agents] have gone and blitzed the avenues and strasses of east London with his "Rotten Cotton" image.
Dr D [http://drd.nu] has been a longtime friend and supporter of the sorts of things we've got up to - and it's great to see his involvement with the film.
You've all donated - which means you'll all get a download of the artwork. And those of you who've given more than £100 get a signed print.
If you like it - and if you think it's something someone you know would like - do please pass the crowdfund link and trailer on.
Don't forget you can also get an exclusive print [which he is working on - pix of that soon] from the inimitable Peter Kennard [http://peterkennard.com] and an exclusive t-shirt designed by font-god Jonathan Barnbrook [http://barnbrook.net].
We've also got something coming up from street artist and hipster doyenne War Boutique [http://www.warboutique.com], a piece from an artist at the International Academy of Art in Palestine [http://www.artacademy.ps]...and yet another arty/musicy surprise we'll let you all know about soon.
Again...many many thanks peeps.
Hi team -
Thanks very much again for believing in the project and giving over your hard-earned pounds.
I know it's tight times for everyone so I really do appreciate that so many people are as inspired and angered enough about this subject as I am to want to do something about it. To that end, I thought I'd let you know just what we'll be spending the money on.
As you know, we've been promised £25k from a private donor providing we can matchfund that. We've raised £10k of that so far. We're looking for £18k from you....erm...what? £15k will go towards the matchfund. £3k will go towards producing the rewards and fees for launching the crowdfund. If we hit our target, Sponsume take 4%. If we don't, they take 9% [but we still get to keep what we've raised]. Then there's that demon called Paypal and whatever mystical figure they decide to charge us. We also have to pay 20% VAT on all the value of the rewards we offer [yep, VAT]. And then the rest of that will go on producing and the physical rewards [paying printers, buying stock, postage etc].
So...the rest of the dosh [£50k]...£10k of that has already been spent on the first shoot we just finished in Wardha. The remaining £40k will pay for kit hire, our local fixers, our director of photography, our assitant in London, an editor, two to three more shoots out in Wardha and a kickstart into making the naughty plan happen. If there's anything left over then the producers and I will get paid. Those are the basics - short of sending over a spreadsheet...and I really hate spreadsheets.
Thanks again for all your help everybody...do please spread the word. Would love to get as close to £3000 by the close of this weekend.
Lots of love,
Leah and the gang
Thank you all for helping make the crowdfund launch such a success.
Got a little surprise for all of you - last night notorious street urchin / vandal Dr D dropped a little image in my inbox. He's made a piece of work just for the film and anyone who's donated upwards of a tenner can get their hands on a free hi res download of it. If you'd like it as a signed print [no fingerprints], that will go to anyone who donates £100.
Am quite busy finishing off a bunch of reports for people who gave us the money to go out to India in the first place. When that's done, I'll send out some stories about the people we met and the ideas that are flying around the farmer suicides issue. You'll get to meet our not-too-rich-just-about-struggling farmer Hanuman who's taken out 80k rupees in loans...and 70k of that's already been spent on bt cotton seed and pesticides. You'll meet progressive economists who agonise over the viability of Western organic ideals and perceptions over what's practicable in India. You'll meet activists, farmers union heads, women who now run villages, an insightful parrot and...here we go...you'll meet two women. One is a widow who found her husband hanging in their tiny family home seven years ago. In his pocket were notes saying how much debt they were in. The men who loaned the money keep coming around asking for it. She has nothing to pay them from a job sweeping school floors and looking after three children. The other woman you'll meet is illiterate with two grown sons. On 09 August 2012, her husband drank poison in the 2.5 acres of farmland he worked on. He managed to make it home, told his wife to look after their sons and then died in the back of an autorickshaw on the way to hospital. She still doesn't know how much he owed.
So that's where we are. Thanks for helping us along. Because we need to keep the momentum going on this, can I ask you to not only share the link to this crowdfund but be a little ambassador for the film. Whenever you can, drop a little line in about the farmers that kill themselves to get out of debt and the government that bequeaths corporate subsidies yet refuses to pay more than a thousand pounds in compensation for someone's life [and the family only see a quarter of that - the rest is put in the bank and they get to use the interest]. You'll be the life of the party - honest.
Thanks again everybody. Really appreciate it. And do help kick us into £2000 before the weekend please.
All the best,
Leah and the team