Supply Chain Reaction

Director – Jehane Noujaim
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What do human rights have to do with the economy?
As consumers in a rapidly growing world economy, we have an insatiable appetite for the next greatest electronic gadget, like smartphones and TVs. But can we consume cheap imported products without exploiting someone in the supply chain?

Directed by Jehane Noujaim & Geeta Gandbhir
Amar Bhide
Cam Simpson
Christine Bader
Jeffrey Sachs
Julian Kirby
Film Production:
Producer: Karim Amer
Co-Producer: Tracy Nguyen-Chung
Writer: Nicholas Klein
Editor: Andrew Swioff
Sound Design: Jesse Peterson
Rerecording Mixer: Tom Paul
Colorist: Dalia Mossad
Production Manager: Tracy Nguyen-Chung
Production Assistant: Tyler Wallace
New York Unit:
Director of Photography: Naiti Gamez
Director of Photography: Nick Fitzhugh
Sound Recordist: David Schumacher
Production Assistant: Miguel Garzón Martínez

London Unit:
Director of Photography: Chris Scott
Sound Recordist: Jack Sandham
Field Producer: Aleksandra Bilic

Additional Footage and Film Clips Provided by:
Friends of the Earth
Human Rights Action Center
Jörn Barkemeyer & Jan Künzl
Ksawery Jan Oroczko, Stephan Huelsen, & Steffen Mackert
Michael Watts
Rainforest Alliance
South-South News
UNI Global Unity
US Uncut
Photography Stills provided by:
Africa Renewal
Andrew Hong
Betsy Dorsett
Brave New Films
Brent Moore
Dan Zen
Dr. MH Saher
ENOUGH Project
Gwan Kho
Leonardo Bonanni
Marten van Dijl
Matilde Gattoni/Tandem Reportages
Michael Kelley
Rick Cooper
Robert Scoble
Steve Calcott
Todd Glass
Ulet Ifansasti/Friends of the Earth
Special Thanks:
Friends of the Earth
Michael Posner
Kyu-Young Lee
Erin Trowbridge
Jeffrey Sachs
Amar Bhide
Cam Simpson
Julian Kirby
Bas van Abel
Tessa Wernick
Roos van de Weerd
Daria Koreniushkina
Richard Elliott
Adam Brandenburger
Dina Amer
Naiti Gamez
Freek Bersch
Evert Hassink
Melanie Kramers
Amelia Collins
Christine Bader
Peggy Noonan
Jeffrey Miron
Simon Lester
Margot Saher
Leonardo Bonanni
Marten van Dijl
Ulet Ifansasti
Matilde Gatton
We Make Brands
UNI Global Unity
Human Rights Action Center
Jörn Barkemeyer
Jan Künzl
Ksawery Jan Oroczko
Stephan Huelsen
Steffen Mackert
Lisa Wisely
Byron Qiao
Gugi van der Velden
Roy Radner
Ksawery Jan Oroczko
Jack Healey
Amy Poncher
Seth Brau
Rachel Travis
Karen Shin
Katharine Grant
Rob Massey
@Noujaim Films. All Rights Reserved
Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

Jehane Noujaim

JEHANE NOUJAIM’s feature documentary “The Square” was nominated for an Academy Award. Born and raised in Cairo, she began her career as a photographer. Following a B.A. in Film and Philosophy at Harvard, she directed “Mokattam” (1998). Noujaim went on to produce and direct “” (2001), in association with Pennebaker Hegedus Films, and her award-winning “Control Room” (2004). She was co-director on “ We Are Watching You,” and was executive producer on “Encounter Point” (2006) and “Budrus.” She also worked as a cinematographer on “Born Rich” (2003), “Only the Strong Survive” (2002), and “Down from the Mountain” (2002).

Director's Note

“When we first started talking with Adam Davidson about potential subjects for the film, we as filmmakers from Egypt and India were drawn to the question of human rights abuses that happen abroad while manufacturing consumer goods that we enjoy. How should we feel about these issues? It is a very complex subject, a challenge to tackle in a few minutes, but that was part of the fun.   

We chose “What do human rights have to do with the economy” and were thrilled to be able to interview such great thinkers as Jeffrey Sachs and Amar Bhide. The story is personal for us— Geeta Ghandbir, my co-director, comes from India, and I come from Egypt — where we see what appear to be human rights abuses surrounding the work force all around us. I mean very personal — my cousin has a factory for making t-shirts in Egypt, a factory which is likely shutting down because it is difficult to compete in foreign markets against manufacturing in Bangladesh and other places. My cousin employs 15-year-old girls who are just out of school to make these t-shirts…. Isn’t that child labor?  But speak with the girls themselves, and they say they would be taking another job at that age anyway, that their family cannot afford to put them through continuing school, that they are contributing to the household, and ultimately are helping the family out of poverty. They say they get several years of training they would not get otherwise. So where do we draw the lines? We decided to take on the subject of the cell phone and tin because all of us have one —  we cannot ignore the conversation about it.   

Geeta had the brilliant idea that the cell phone itself should have a conscience and narrate the piece trying to figure out where she comes from. Karim Amer, our producer, and I loved the concept and thought that the phone should be having an existential crisis talking with her owner. Nicolas Klein our writer took it to another level where the phone was about to commit suicide off of a balcony in New York as her owner helped her figure out how she should feel about herself.   

We had a lot of fun on rooftops of New York City. But in the end, because of the seriousness of the subject (and our skilled editor Andrew’s ability to pull it together graphically) we decided to go with a more straightforward approach— bringing in our friends from different sides of the debate.  We were blown away by Cam Simpson’s dedication to the story of tin and its use in our cell phone. We love that it is Amar, who is the Indian in the film who argues that it is sometimes these poor working conditions and the selling of these phones that actually is able to pull people out of poverty.  We were awed by Jeff Sachs’ ability to explain complex economic problems in a way we could easily understand. And we were excited to see that not only the large companies, like Apple, Samsung, Microsoft are taking some action, but that there are smaller companies like Fairphone that are building devices that are made ‘fairly’ with great attention to workers rights around the world.   

In the end the film provides no answers but asks questions that are going to become even more important in our increasingly interconnected world.”


The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on:

  • 57% Less than $1.25 per day
  • 11% Less than $10.00 per day
  • 10% Less than $20.00 per day
  • 22% Less than $3.00 per day
57% of respondents chose the correct answer: Less than $1.25 per day.

The definition of the level of earnings to qualify for "extreme poverty" was originally set at $1 per day when the UN Millennium Development Goals were published in 2005, but was raised to $1.25 in 2008 by the World Bank to recognize higher price levels in several developing countries.

What percentage (or number) of people in the world fall below the $1.25-per-day level of poverty?

  • 3% Zero
  • 12% About 5% (350m people)
  • 37% About 15% (1.2 billion people)
  • 49% About 25% (1.8 billion people)
37% of respondents chose the correct answer: About 15% (1.2 billion people).

In 2010, 1.22 billion people lived on less than $1.25 per day.

Over the past three decades, the number of people living below the $1.25-per-day level of poverty has been:

  • 6% Steady – No change
  • 30% Rising because of growing inequality
  • 32% Falling
  • 32% Rising because of world population growth
32% of respondents chose the correct answer: Falling.

In 2010, 1.22 billion people lived on less than $1.25 per day, compared with 1.91 billion people in 1990, and 1.94 billion people in 1981.

Did you know?

  • After the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire where 146 workers perished, many laws were enacted to protect workers.

  • The definition of extreme poverty was originally set at earning $1 a day in 2005, raised to $1.25 in 2008 by the World Bank.

  • Of the estimated 100 million tons of e-waste produced globally every year, it is estimated that only 15-20% is recycled.

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