Philippe Diaz’s documentary, The End of Poverty, is a piece that attempts to dissect the causes of the huge economic inequalities that exist between countries in the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere.
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The documentary, through the narrator Martin Sheen, gives a graphic description of the years of exploitation that have turned American and European countries into economic superpowers while, at the same time, impoverishing the weak economies of the developing world. The poverty, suffering and misery in the Third World are brought to life in the documentary.
A central argument that the documentary focuses on is the supply of raw materials to the developed countries. Diaz explains that the ever hungry industries of the developed world import raw materials from the developing countries at a very low cost and use the raw materials to convert their own countries into export economies for finished products. The producers of these raw materials in Africa and Latin America continue wallowing in untold poverty despite the effort they put into production (Diaz, 2009).
What makes this documentary especially poignant is the realization that the exploitation of these economies has been going on for many centuries. Lack of technology and means of value addition mean that the miners and the farmers do not get the true value of their efforts. Bolivian miners and sugarcane farmers in Brazil are shown in graphic detail toiling daily with no commensurate reward while the world economy continues to be controlled by the rich economies.
The colonial legacy that is all too evident in the developing countries is also illuminated in the documentary. It documents how the impoverished countries pay huge amounts of money to their former colonial masters to repay debts that were built up in the course of the colonial period.
The independence governments of the developing countries are forced to shoulder the burden of their colonial masters who accumulated these debts during the colonial period. As these countries repay these huge debts, their citizens continue to suffer under the burden of social inefficiencies.
The issues explored in the documentary have been the subjects of debate in many social and economic forums, with the poor countries attempting in vain to highlight the serious issues that confront them.
The point that Diaz makes is that poor nations are not seeking for aid and financial assistance but justice over the exploitation that they have endured over the centuries (Diaz, 2009). Financial institutions such as the World Bank come under intense criticism for this state of affairs with Diaz castigating their lopsided economic policies regarding the poor nations.
However, the documentary fails in one critical area: the prescription it gives in solving the problem of poverty. Towards the end, the film delves into what is obviously an unworkable solution to the problem of poverty. Diaz prescribes the nationalization of resources in the developing countries as a way of solving a complex historical problem. This prescription obviously falls short of expectations considering the powerful theme being presented in the documentary.
However, the way the documentary uses experts, such as author John Perkins to dissect the problem is a major strength. Other experts featured in the film include Economics Nobel prize winner, Joseph Stiglitz, and other social activists. At the end of the film, one agrees with the theme, which essentially points out that people are poor by design and not by any accident of nature.
Diaz, P. (Director) (2009). The End of Poverty, (Documentary). Cinema Libre studio, Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903943/