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Milk, Chocolat and Pi as the Co-Op moves into the film business

Finally some exciting news out of the Croisette - Britain's fifth largest retailer, the UK's biggest farmer and the world's biggest seller of fair trade, non-animal tested and ethically sourced products and services, the Co-Op, is moving into film distribution, starting with the hotly awaited docs Burma VJ and The Vanishing of the Bees.

We often lament in my flat the march to sell out, that has seen the loss of once exclusively Fair Trade Green and Blacks to Cadburys, Pret a Manger to McDonalds, BodyShop to L'Oreal and Innocent to Coke, but often forget a Manchester-founded stalwart whose principles have neither diminished nor been bought out. Continuing to expand in the UK, and my local 24-hour corner shop, the news of the Co-Op's involvement in the social documentary area of the film business, especially given its huge marketing and retail space across its 2,500 stores and its ethical bank, is the best film news I've heard all year. Forget the Auto Workers Union owning 45% of Chrysler - the Co-Op is entirely member and worker owned, and with 3 million members is the UK's largest membership organisation. Best of all, with a film like The Vanishing of the Bees, the co-op is in the rare position of being able to effect a part of the change called in the films, through its farming, investment and trading practices.

Burma VJ poster


and I don't think ScreenDaily have written this up yet ;-) Press release clippings follow:

This unique two-way partnership will see Dogwoof and The Co-operative jointly financing the marketing and distribution costs associated with campaigning films on important issues, starting with BURMA VJ and THE VANISHING OF THE BEES.

Both films, which will be premiered in the UK later this year, reflect two of The Co-operative’s hard hitting campaigns – to support the oppressed people of Burma and to help reverse the decline in the honeybee population.

Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals and Sustainability at The Co-operative, said:

“We recognise the power of film to motivate people to take action and drive change, and hope that these films will help mobilise our members and the general public.

“The Co-operative, the UK’s largest member-owned business, has three million members and a unique 165 year history of campaigning for change. With support from our customer-members, we have been campaigning for democracy in Burma for years and are leading the fight to save the honeybee. “

Dogwoof’s CEO Andy Whittaker commented:

“This partnership with The Co-operative emphasises our objectives to develop working relationships with partners who are committed to facilitate discussion. In turn, the partnership will provide The Co-operative with a means of communicating their values with a film audience.”

The first film to be released by Dogwoof and The Co-operative will be BURMA VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country, which tells the story of the Democratic Voice of Burma and their role in the battle for a free and democratic Burma. The majority of the film consists of footage shot illegally using concealed cameras and follows the brave new breed of young ‘video journalists’ who captured the recent uprisings. It will be released at a nationwide Saffron Premiere event on 14 July.

The Co-operative is in its tenth year of campaigning on Burma. In line with the call from democratically-elected representatives of the Burmese people, The Co-operative does not trade with Burma, The Co-operative Travel has delisted the country as a tourist destination, and The Co-operative Bank will not finance any organisation with a significant commercial presence in Burma.

THE VANISHING OF THE BEES, the second film to be released through the collaboration, will be in UK cinemas on 9th October. It is an environmental film, shot across the globe over the past two years, which uncovers the worrying decline in the worldwide bee population. Through its nationwide Plan Bee campaign, The Co-operative has been encouraging its customers and members to take action to help reverse the declining bee population.

James Erskine, Executive Producer of THE VANISHING OF THE BEES said,

“I am delighted that Dogwoof and The Co-operative have agreed to be our first distribution partners for the incredible story told in The Vanishing of the Bees. It is a global ecological crisis that we must all address, told beautifully on a film in a way that never loses the human perspective. This groundbreaking union for a groundbreaking film will ensure that the documentary reaches as wide an audience as possible."

The release of BURMA VJ and THE VANISHING OF THE BEES marks Dogwoof’s commitment to the wide release of films (both fiction and non-fiction) concerning important issues, with a view to inspiring and fostering genuine change. This is coupled with its determination to use innovative and revolutionary distribution models, such as the recent success of the People’s Premiere of the film THE AGE OF STUPID, released through its ethical Dogwoof Indie model, setting a very clear benchmark for the company aspirations.