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'Why Poverty?' Documentary Series

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A Documentary Series That Investigates Causes of Poverty and Possible Solutions

From November 23 through November 30, Why Poverty?, a series of eight one-hour documentaries focusing on the causes and possible solutions for world wide poverty, will be broadcast around the world by a consortium of 67 international broadcasters, including PBS in the United States.

The films, commissioned by Steps International, an international nonprofit organization headquartered in Denmark and with offices in South Africa. The series, produced in partnership with the BBC, DR/Danish Broadcasting Corporation, and other funding broadcasters, is intended to raise public awareness about conditions of poverty and inequality, and point to various problems associated with aid, trade and the economic system. Some 500 million people are expected to watch the films, which are a wake up alarm about the extent of extreme poverty around the globe and a challenge to global audiences to ask Why Poverty? and demand change.

Elucidating the purpose of the series, Danish Broadcasting's Mette Hoffmann-Meyer, a founding Board Member and Executive Producer of Steps International, says, "We're questioning why 50 years of aid has not been able to change the fact that one billion people are still living in poverty. We question why it is so difficult to ensure a decent life for everyone. These questions made us want to investigate and look into the complexities and challenges of inequality through different stories and points of view. We all wish for our children to grow up in safety, to get an education and live a life without fear."

Films in the Why Poverty? Series

  • Solar Mamas is flimmakers Mona Eldaief & Jehane Noujaim's inspiring documentary about women who are managing to work their way out of poverty -- and help their impoverished and male dominated communities -- by learning to be solar engineers. In particular, this is the story of Rafea, a Bedouin woman living in a remote corner of Jordan, a second wife of a man with whom she has four daughters but who doesn't provide for her and refuses to allow her to work. Rafea's education at the Barefoot College in India is all stops and starts, as her husband threatens to take her children away from her if she doesn't obey him and come home to resume her life as his obedient second wife. Rafea is a strong and appealing lead character, and this film is a strong and compelling argument that women who are encouraged to work can make a big difference in the economic well being of their families and communities.

  • Park Avenue Money, Power and the America Dream is Alex Gibney's look at the economic inequality that has widened the gap between super rich and dirt poor residents of New York City. Gibney goes inside 740 Park Avenue, the Manhattan home of some of the richest people in America, and crosses the Harlem River into the South Bronx, where residents on Park Avenue live off of food stamps and kids are in constant danger of being killed. The divide is getting wider. As of 2010, the 400 richest Americans controlled more wealth than the 150-million people who are on the lowest rungs of the country's economic ladder.
  • Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty is Ben Lewis' history of attitudes towards poverty. Using animation, stylish graphics and archival footage, Lewis begins his chronology in the Neolithic Age and continues through to modern times, showing the relationship between poverty and other aspects of inequality.

  • In Give Us The Money, Bosse Lindquist investigates how effective the Live Aid to Make Poverty History entertainment events have been in raising funds and enhancing public awareness about poverty in order to diminish it. Lindquist interviews activists Bob Geldof, Bono, Bill Gates and others, who speak candidly about how to lobby effectively and how to play the glitzy and glamorous celebrity card to engage politicians in worthy causes.

  • Welcome To The World questions whether it's better to be born or to die poor -- as though there could be a better choice between those two alternatives. That said, each year, not one of the 130 million babies born annually has the opportunity to determine where he or she will be born or into what circumstances. The film provides a tour of new borns' circumstances around the world. It's no vacation, to be sure.
  • Land Rush focuses on feeding the world and how it can be done. Filmmakers Hugo Berkeley and Osvalde Lewat's look at the way wealthy international conglomerates from China and Saudi Arabia are trying to buy up traditionally farmed lands in Mali to converting them into huge agribusiness farms, thereby depriving local farmers -- about 75 percent of the Malian people of their traditional way of life and livelihood. A military coup scares off the developers, but it remains to be seen whether the Malians can manage with their traditional farming methods to provide enough food to support the population.
  • Education Education is filmmaker Weijun Chen's educational film about education in China -- and what it has meant for Chinese people in the past, and what it means in contemporary society, as a way to escape poverty. In the past, education was a path to economic betterment, but today, even in light of the economic boom and the expectations it generates, there are relatively few jobs to be had, so many educated people don't reap the benefits of their studies. The film documents an atmosphere of despair that exists in educated circles in Central China's Wuhan district, and especially among three people -- a private tutor, a high school grad who's seeking higher education and a college grad who can't find a job.
  • Stealing Africa considers just how much profit is fair. Filmmaker Christoffer Guldbrandsen's well researched documentary is set in Zambia, a country that ranks third from the top in the world's copper reserves. But in this land of natural riches, 60% of the population live on less than one dollar per day, and 80% of the people are unemployed. At the other end of the spectrum, the Swiss village of Rüschlikon collects runs a surplus in annual tax revenue, despite the fact that its wealthy residents pay a low tax rate. Among the wealthy citizens is Ivan Glasenberg, the CEO of Glencore, the multinational mining company that hauls copper out of Zambia without contributing tax revenue that would benefit the impoverished Zambian people. This situation is replicated around the world, as international laws allow foreign investors to exploit natural resources, creating a one way money flow away from the local people who need it desperately.

Additional Short Films in The Series

In addition to the eight features, the series will present thirty shorts, each ranging from 2-6 minutes in length. These will be accessible to viewers without charge on the Why Poverty? Website, and on Youtube.created together with the BBC and DR/Danish Broadcasting Corporation, who are the lead broadcast partners and driving forces of the project.

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