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Documentary ‘End of Poverty?’ Comes to DPAC

Tatiana Spragins | Monday, February 1, 2010

The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center hosted a showing of the documentary, “The End of Poverty?” a film directed by Philippe Diaz about poverty primarily in Latin America and Africa, on Saturday.
Filmed in less than eight months by a two-person crew of only the director and producer, “The End of Poverty?” is about the alarming increase in poverty around the globe despite a worldwide growth in wealth.
By talking to professionals about the matter in several different countries as well as conducting interviews with people and families who live on less than $1 a day, the film highlights important issues about poverty, namely how it began, where and why it exists, and what are the implications of this for our lives in the future.
A distinctive feature about Diaz’s approach to poverty is to explain the reasons why it began. The economists, historians and scholars interviewed discussed the history of colonialism and the imprint it leaves until this day in most third world countries where poverty is predominant. By providing an insight into the history of a culture and of the colonial-imperial relationship — which prevailed throughout the 17th, 18th and even 19th centuries — the viewer can understand that the reasons for poverty in these countries is so rooted in its country’s historical background and that poverty is far from being an easy fix.
Natives to a country discussed the loss of culture, and how the white European would arrive with “a Bible in one hand, and a weapon in the other.” However, the three issues highlighted as a consequence of colonialism and which, ultimately, are what prevent a country from climbing out of its conditions are trade, debt and monopoly. For example, it was mentioned that sub-Saharan Africa is paying $25,000 a minute in international debt. The film asks, how many schools and hospitals could be built with that money?
The focus soon shifted from the historical reasons for colonialism to what the consequences of this history are, from international debt to the poor individual’s view of his or her placement in society. Finally, the documentary took a turn towards discussing how a similar structure to imperialism still exists today between countries of the north and of the south. Namely, at how the United States is the new superpower dictating the rules for underdeveloped countries to abide by.
With a documentary on poverty, the possibilities are endless. In “The End of Poverty?” a unique feature is its very clear and instructive explanation for why poverty exists and that its origins are deeply rooted in historical issues. As well as instructive, the people interviewed included a perfect balance, from a well-educated scholar (in a comfy couch and a fancy desk lamp) to father of six who works 15 hours a day to make $6.
However, “The End of Poverty?” lacks in one simple aspect. It does not create any hope nor is it very emotionally appealing. It provides a background and hard facts, but does not instruct the viewer on what he or she can do their part to fix the situation. As it reached the end, the documentary began to focus more on pointing fingers at who is preventing things from getting better than actually suggesting a way in which the viewer can do his or her part in aiding this global issue.
It seems that the film simply sank into its comfortable seat as it sadly said that there isn’t anything we can do unless the northern superpowers change the way they handle capitalism, which is neither an effective nor an inspiring conclusion to such a devastating and powerful theme.
Interesting at first, instructive without a doubt, but, unfortunately, “The End of Poverty?” fails to live up to its expectations, and to what it could have been.