This is Not a Chocolate Factory (2003)
Winner - Kodak Award - Waterfront Film Festival 2003
Directed by David J. Ruck
Produced by Tanya Cabala
Sponsored by the Lake Michigan Federation (now Alliance for the Great Lakes)
Running Time: 18:00
Audience: Students, Great Lakes citizens, community leaders
Purpose: Educate future generations on the history of the White Lake community with regards to pollution and social activism.
My first contract project was to produce a documentary with a small amount of funding on the history of Hooker Chemical Company in Montague, Michigan. The company was responsible for the largest and most expensive environmental disaster in the state of Michigan, polluting ground water with toxic production waste - the byproduct of their producing pesticides.
The Lake Michigan Federation's goal was the not let the community forget the lessons of the past, to empower local citizens to be active and engaged and to feel like their voices could be heard. Indeed, the story of the tragedy of White Lake is also the story of citizen activists raising their voice and demanding state and local governments take action to stop the company from dumping toxic waste, destroying their lake, and eventually restoring the ecosystem.
The film is still used today in classrooms. Every student that goes through Whitehall Schools watches This is Not a Chocolate Factory in 8th grade. These students participate in beach cleanups and run campaigns to reduce plastic consumption, a problem of grave consequence to the Great Lakes today. This film was in no small part a catalyst for these teachers and students who will make certain a problem like Hooker Chemical Company never again happens in their backyard.
David Ruck filming at interview outside the plant (top).
Students watch This is Not a Chocolate Factory as part of their curriculum at Whitehall Middle School (bottom).