T-Shirt Travels

This film clearly demonstrates how neo-liberal free-market economics has destroyed the Zambian economy, putting disabling debt repayment to the IMF in the place of social spending on education, health and welfare. Squeezed by a colonial legacy of resource extraction, Cold War politics and free-market rhetoric, Zambia has ended up as the world’s largest US flea market. Although the idea is novel in terms of filmic expression, Bloemen takes a fairly generic approach, combining interviews with experts — members of the Zambian Government, as well as historians and economists — with more ethnographic footage of ordinary people’s lives and her own explanatory voice-over. The strength of the film is the way in which it traces the transatlantic journey of huge quantities of used clothing from the US to Africa as a way of visualizing and understanding unequal and unjust global economic relations. At just under an hour, *T-Shirt Travels* would be eminently suited to educational settings.

mag cover This article is from the June 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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