By Diana Stanczak
Last week, I watched the documentary “Mann vs. Ford” in my World Cultures class. The documentary focused on the lawsuit between Upper Ringwood’s Ramapough community and Ford Motor Company. A key theme repeated in the documentary was the fact that these natives health has been compromised due to the thoughtless actions of Ford, which dumped paint in the area inhabited by thousands of people. “Mann vs. Ford” followed the work of Wayne Mann, the lead plaintiff in the case, who fought to receive some sort of compensation for all the damage done by Ford. Damage included health issues and destruction of land.
The health issues were particularly disturbing to learn about. So many people suffered and died from cancer and other diseases. The documentary tied in with “Toxic Legacy,” and served as a good counterpart, because seeing a visual reinforces the situation in the viewer’s mind. The footage of all the areas affected was effective as well, because the documentary really captured the Ramapough’s emotional connection to the land.
The following class, Dwaine Perry, Chief of the Ramapough-Lenape, spoke to our class about the living conditions in Upper Ringwood. Chief Perry did not hold back – his words flowed freely, and some of the things he had to say were harsh. The most surprising thing for me to learn was that Ramapoughs are severely outcasted by the rest of Ringwood’s residents – something that was not depicted in the documentary. He also spoke bitterly about the lawyers, suggesting that there was more they could have done. After hearing Chief Perry speak, I began to question the credibility of the documentary.
I came to the conclusion that as with anything in life, there are always two or more sides and it is important to hear all of them. I still think the documentary is a good vehicle for raising awareness of the destruction in Upper Ringwood, but I feel that it may have almost idolized the Ramapoughs and depicted them in an unnatural, completely positive light.