Pink Ribbons, Inc.

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Pink Ribbons, Inc.
Directed byLéa Pool
Written byPatricia Kearns
Nancy Guerin
Léa Pool
Based onPink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy
by Samantha King
Produced byRavida Din
CinematographyDaniel Jobin
Sylvaine Dufaux
Nathalie Moliavko-Visotzky
Edited byOana Suteu
Distributed byFirst Run Features (U.S.)
Release dates
  • September 11, 2011 (2011-09-11) (Toronto Film Festival)
  • February 3, 2012 (2012-02-03) (Canada)
Running time
97 minutes

Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a 2011 National Film Board of Canada (NFB) documentary about the pink ribbon campaign, directed by Léa Pool and produced by Ravida Din.[1] The film is based on the 2006 book Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy by Samantha King, associate professor of kinesiology and health studies at Queen's University.[2]

The film documents how some companies use pink ribbon-related marketing to increase sales while contributing only a small fraction of proceeds to the cause, or use "pinkwashing" to improve their public image while manufacturing products that may be carcinogenic. For the millions that are raised for breast cancer research by the campaign, the film argues that not enough money goes to prevention or exploring possible environmental factors. Pink Ribbons, Inc. features interviews with critics of the pink ribbon campaign, researchers and cancer patients as well as cancer fundraisers such as Nancy Brinker, head of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.[2][3][4]

Pool interviews Charlotte Haley, who began a peach-coloured ribbon campaign more than 20 years ago to press the National Cancer Institute to increase its budget for cancer prevention research, from a mere 5 per cent. When Haley was approached by Self magazine and cosmetics company Estée Lauder in 1992 to use her ribbons in a breast cancer awareness campaign she refused, because she had no desire to be part of a commercial effort. So the company changed the colour to pink, to circumvent Haley's efforts.[5][6]

Also featured is the "IV League," a support group in Austin, Texas for women diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, who feel unwelcome in the pink ribbon movement because, in the words of one member, "They’re learning to live and you’re learning to die."[6] Author Samantha King has called it “the tyranny of cheerfulness.”[2]


Ravida Din, an NFB producer, is a breast cancer survivor who had read Samantha King's book as well as Barbara Ehrenreich's 2001 Harper's Magazine article "Welcome to Cancerland" after her own experience with the disease and its treatment:

“I was initially fascinated by King’s economic and historical context around philanthropy,” she said. “The question I was intrigued by was, ‘How did we get to this kind of breast cancer culture that privileges shopping [as a solution] as opposed to getting angry and asking for change?'"[7]

After developing an outline for the project with help from scriptwriters Nancy Guerin and Patricia Kearns, Din began looking for the right director, and approached Pool with the project.[2][4]


Pool illustrates written facts about breast cancer, in place of traditional documentary narration, and includes animation by Francis Gelinas as well as an archival TV clip of Alfred Hitchcock directing William Shatner as a doctor telling a patient she has breast cancer. The film heavily features the colour pink, on clothing, in marketing, and floodlit monuments like Niagara Falls and the Empire State Building.[3][4] This movie also shows several clips of public rallies and walking/running events, such as the Komen Walk for the Cure.



Pink Ribbons, Inc. premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.[7] It opened in Canadian theatres on February 3, 2012,[8] a date which coincided with the reversal of a controversial Susan G. Komen attempt to sever ties to Planned Parenthood's US breast screening clinic programmes.[9]

According to Deborah Drisdell, head of the NFB's accessibility and digital enterprises division, the NFB chose to distribute the film itself in Canada rather than use a commercial distributor to better control the marketing and capitalize on its ongoing work with community groups in Canada. First Run Features will distribute Pink Ribbons, Inc. in the United States.[10]

Critical reviews[edit]

Currently, Pink Ribbons, Inc. has a rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 33 reviews and an average score of 7/10.[11]


  1. ^ Smith, Ian Hayden (2012). International Film Guide 2012. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-908215-01-7.
  2. ^ a b c d Szklarski, Cassandra (31 January 2012). "NFB doc examines the politics of marketing disease". CTV News. Canadian Press. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  3. ^ a b Anderson, John (15 September 2011). "Pink Ribbons, Inc". Variety. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Heinrich, Jeff (31 January 2012). "It's a fine line between fundraising, feminism". Regina Leader-Post. Postmedia News. Archived from the original on 9 February 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  5. ^ Barnard, Linda (2 February 2012). "Pink Ribbons Inc. review: Not so pretty in pink". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  6. ^ a b Campbell, Marlo (26 January 2012). "We've been pinkwashed". Uptown. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  7. ^ a b Dunlevy, T’Cha (30 January 2012). "The women behind Pink Ribbons, Inc. hope to change the discourse of breast cancer". National Post. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Pink Ribbons, Inc. opens theatrically across Canada, starting February 3". Press release. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  9. ^ Anne Kingston (3 February 2012). "Running for Pink Ribbons, Inc.: A new documentary takes a hard look at the comforting pink haze surrounding breast cancer research". Macleans newsmagazine. Rogers Media. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  10. ^ Vlessing, Etan (27 January 2012). "NFB's Drisdell discusses challenges of "Pink Ribbons" release". Reelscreen. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  11. ^ "Pink Ribbons, Inc Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 23, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

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