Piper Hendricks, '03: Film, Change, and Conscious Consumerism
By Katie Vloet
Law Quadrangle Notes, Fall 2013
When Piper Hendricks, ’03, was clerking in the Southern District
of Florida in 2007, she went to a South Beach theater to see a
screening of the documentary King Corn. Years later, she spoke
with a Catholic nun in Israel about bananas—specifically, legal
allegations of human rights violations at Chiquita.
Together, those two occasions helped lay the foundation for a new
career path. As a lawyer, she had grown discouraged by the
difficulties of winning human rights cases against corporations.
So she turned her attention to film as a way of being an advocate
for causes she believed in.
“I had no idea how to make films. But I knew they were an
effective way to reach people,” says Hendricks, who had practiced
as a human rights attorney until founding the film nonprofit p.h.
balanced films in late 2011. She still takes on the occasional case,
and she says that her training as a lawyer is immensely helpful in
her career as a filmmaker.
At p.h. balanced films, Hendricks and her team are working on two
short-film series—one called Your Wallet, Your Choice (And
Voice!) about how the goods you buy as a consumer connect you
to other people in the global economy, and one called Choice
Viewing that highlights businesses that are engaging in conscious
“How does the rubber on your tires get from a tree in Africa to
your car? How does a banana from a farm in Colombia get to your
breakfast cereal bowl? How do your cut flowers arrive to your door
on special occasions? How do the minerals that make your
electronics work get from a mine to your cell phone?” Hendricks
asks. “We think a lot of people want to know the answers to those
questions, and that they’ll consume products differently once they
know the realities.
“We’re showing how we’re connected to different human rights
problems around the world. It’s so easy, especially in the United
States, to go to the store and buy a chocolate bar and not think
about where it comes from,” she says. “People don’t think about
if you’re buying chocolate that’s sourced in West Africa, you’re
supporting child labor.”
The first short film in the Your Wallet series addresses palm oil;
future films will deal with human rights violations involving
cotton, electronics, cocoa, and more.
She believes the films can make a change in people’s lives, just as
she experienced during the post-King Corn discussion years ago.
She also saw it happen when she told the nun in Israel about the
human rights case against Chiquita (in which the company
pleaded guilty to supporting a paramilitary group in Colombia).
“And this darling nun immediately said, ‘Well, I’m never going to
buy their bananas again,’ ” Hendricks recounts. “Her conviction,
with which she avowed never to support a company that engaged
in such practices, stuck with me. It’s exactly the kind of impact
we’re hoping to make with our films, on a much larger scale.”
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