A unique and ambitious big-picture approach

fji_logoFilm Review: The End of Poverty?
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Documentary takes a unique and ambitious big-picture approach to a daunting, seemingly endless problem.

Nov 13, 2009

-By Eric Monder

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For movie details, please click here.

For those who blame the victim or consider poverty as merely a
social ill, The End of Poverty? will prove to be an
eye-opener. This refreshingly straightforward documentary gives the
world-history “backstory” (and continuing story) of why so many
people live so poorly and die of malnutrition in abundant
societies. Philippe Diaz’s film should be required viewing by every
politician in the world.
Though the topic is unappealing as entertainment,The End of
Poverty?
does an excellent job of informing the viewer without
exploiting its subjects or their cultures. Prospects for theatrical
success may be dubious and the title won’t attract the
unenlightened, but one hopes the film will make an impact over
time.

The End of Poverty? comprises a series of intercut
interviews with scholars from a variety of fields to discuss the
causes of poverty and the nexus of colonialism, war, politics,
economics, privatization, debt, trade and tax policies, property
rights, intellectual-property rights, et al. In between these
illuminating interviews, off-screen narrator Martin Sheen guides
the viewer through the two main shooting locations: the ghettos of
Africa and Latin America.

The matter-of-fact tone of most of the speakers (including Sheen)
allows the facts and visuals to make the film’s case without
excessive or manipulative emotion. Unlike a “Feed the Children”
type of infomercial, The End of Poverty? simply presents its
story as a way to (hopefully) help start solving this age-old
problem or at least have the public think differently about poverty
and its relationship to everything else.
A few small quibbles: The speakers who are interviewed are
predominantly men, yet more often than not women and children wind
up in poverty (so why couldn’t Diaz find more female scholars on
the subject—Barbara Ehrenreich, for example?). The restraint from
finger-pointing may be deliberate (in order for Diaz to maintain
his general big-picture strategy), but surely the worst politicians
and corporations could have been named and highlighted, which would
have put names and faces on the problem. (At least we hear about
Pinochet at one point and there is also a brief mention of Ronald
Reagan.)
Obviously, The End of Poverty? couldn’t include everything
without being several hours long (and Diaz says his first cut
actually was)—so maybe a few sequels are in order. But what the
film contains is vital and significant.

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