The End of Poverty? (2008)
Breaking Down Economic Breakdown
Why Philippe Diaz has titled his new documentary “The End of Poverty?” is unclear, because this guilt trip/history lesson is really about the beginning of poverty: how the economic and social systems evolved that have kept parts of the world wealthy and large swaths of it poor. The film spends so much time detailing its thesis that the roots of modern poverty are 500 years deep — going back to the explorers and conquistadors who first supplanted indigenous economic systems with Western ideas of property ownership — that it only briefly mentions what might be done about the problem. And then it cops out by not dealing with the many practical barriers to that solution.
For his gallery of talking heads, Mr. Diaz, to his credit, uses academics and public figures from all over the globe — Kenya, Bolivia, France — rather than just the usual American and British professors. And they lay the blame for poverty squarely on Western capitalism and the notion that natural resources like water and oil can be owned. (If that sounds like Henry George, the 19th-century political economist, it’s because the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, which is devoted to George’s ideas, is behind the film.) These experts sound a bit naïve, but they do at least make the case that handouts from wealthy countries won’t undo the current inequities.
What will? Serge Latouche, a French economist, suggests what he calls de-growth as the way back to economic Eden, but the film ends without explaining how to bring that about.
THE END OF POVERTY?
Opens on Friday in Manhattan.
Written and directed by Philippe Diaz; director of photography, Mr. Diaz; narrated byMartin Sheen; edited by Tom Von Doom; music by Cristian Bettler and Max Soussan; produced by Beth Portello; released by Cinema Libre Studio. At the Village East, Second Avenue at 12th Street, East Village. In English, Spanish and French with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes. This film is not rated.