THE END OF POVERTY?

| April 20, 2010

Almost 16,000 children die each day from hunger or hunger-related diseases. In 1970, 434 million people are suffering from malnutrition. Today there are 854 million. Almost 1/3 of the world’s population has no access to affordable clean water. The developing world spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants. Cutting global poverty is half would cost $20 billion dollars, less than 4% of the U.S. military budget.
Every so often people need things spelled out for them. “THE END OF POVERTY?”, the critically acclaimed documentary, featured during Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival and numerous other international film festivals, serves to educate, but that’s not all. While experts of economics, government employees and anti-poverty activists share ample information and insight to contour the proof that poverty is a man-made phenomenon, but the fortitude of the film comes more from the lives of those living in poverty than the ones examining it from the outside.
The facts are hard to deny. They are overwhelming, but a lot of it we already knew. The film examines how colonialism and the birth of capitalism created a deep-rooted obstruction that not only still exists, but one that continues to get bigger and stronger. And, it does so with a clarity and simplicity that allows anyone and everyone to understand why poverty exists. It is easy to see how commandeering land, raw material, debts and policy are direct executions to solidify poverty in the global South and prosperity in the global North.
The deepest impressions are crafted by those living under the poverty line in South America and Africa. They are left by the bright, hard-working people paying large fractions of their small wages to water companies in Bolivia, dying of exhaustion in Brazil and watching American companies take away their right to work their own ancestral, fertile Kenyan land. The profound impressions are left by the people who understand the web of structures better than most of us do, because they are consumed by them, while we live in a comfort that is established to keep us dependent, proud and stifled in the way of probing instincts.
Writer and director Philippe Diaz, known for making thought-provoking cinema for decades, set out to “change the dialogue around the poverty debate from ‘poverty is a shame’ to ‘poverty exists for a reason.’” “THE END OF POVERTY?” is just the kind of brave, compelling and essential filmmaking that can create that sort of dialogue. It gives us the kind of knowledge that inspires some, empowers others, scares many and even lends a sense of hopeless in tackling an issue with enduring, threatening historical and institutional foundations.
The tendency to defend a way of life, and the tendency to defend strict capitalism is one that often hinders progression, made blatantly obvious during America’s latest heavy haul for health care reform, regardless of the evidence, the science, the facts, the lives, the deaths. Still, like with climate change, the education has to be there and the information has to circulate and people have to make up their mind. “THE END OF POVERTY?” is the tool that can be used to educate and formulate a different mindset about the most crippling problem humanity faces.

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