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Poverty, Inc. Documentary Premieres in Austin and Savannah

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I worked alongside several Acton Institute colleagues and Coldwater Media for years on the Poverty, Inc. full-length documentary film, which tackles the question: Fighting poverty is big business, but who profits the most? It was gratifying to watch it Monday at what I’m told was the only sold out showing of the 2014 Austin Film Festival.

It was at the first dine-in movie theatre I’ve visited, the Alamo Draft House, which meant we were watching a film about extreme global poverty while being plied with beer, cokes, popcorn and pizza. Since my feelings toward the film border on the maternal, and since I had some delicious Tex-Mex before arriving and was not the least bit hungry, I was tempted to stand and in the stentorian voice of The Simpsons’ Sideshow Bob exclaim, “Down with your greedy forks and steins! Silence!!! This … is … ART! There … on the screen … are the HUDDLED MASSES! Have you no SHAME!”

Happily, my better angels prevailed, I chilled out, and enjoyed the cinematic experience. One thing that helped is that, glancing around at the audience members at various points in the film, I could see that, for the most part, they watched with rapt attention, never mind the gastronomical goodies vying for their attention.

I also reminded myself of a point integral to the documentary: the global poor don’t need, and usually don’t want, our unrelenting pity. What they need instead are stable property rights, the rule of law and wider circles of creativity and exchange with people who recognize their capacity and not just their needs.

Poverty, Inc. grapples with the neo-colonialism, the paternalism, the geopolitical big government/big business cronyism that characterizes so much of our modern day global poverty industry. But in the end the film is about men and women breaking through all of the bad thinking and bad policy to make a positive difference in the communities they live and work in—people like Shelley and Corrigian Clay, who moved to Haiti to open an orphanage. They soon realized that most of the “orphanage” kids had living, loving parents; the parents were just having a hard time making ends meet. They wanted a job; what they got was an offer for somebody else to raise their kids for them. Shocked by the situation, the Clays rethought their assumptions and started something extraordinary.

If you want to hear the rest of their story, look for a Poverty, Inc. showing coming to a city near you. The film was screened at the Savannah Film Festival on Tuesday, and had a second festival showing at Savannah, Georgia’s Lucas Theatre this morning. Other showings will take place at the Leeds International Film Festival in the United Kingdom on November 11th and the Starz Denver Film Festival in Colorado on November 13th and 14th. Find a full schedule of upcoming screenings here.

The film has already won multiple film festival awards, but our ultimate goal is to win hearts and minds so that millions of people with a heart for the poor also have a mind for the poor, so that aid gives way to enterprise, and paternalism to partnerships.

This article was cross-posted from the PovertyCure Blog.

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Jonathan Witt

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