Fight Against Graveyard PovertyIn Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir’s haunting short film “Tombstone Pillow,” a wealthy widow’s perspective on wealth shifts as she explores the destitute living conditions of the Philippines’ Manila cemetery communities. Despite the partially fabricated storyline, the circumstances of Manila’s graveyard living are far from fiction: the cemeteries of Manila North are home to 6,000 poverty-stricken slum-dwellers, many of whom live without access to basic services. Here is some information about graveyard poverty in the Philippines and how “Tombstone Pillow” is raising awareness.

About Graveyard Poverty

Beginning as homes in the 1950s for cemetery caretakers, the cemeteries attract Filipinos living in poverty by providing free living and often some basic income for their work in the graveyards: some receive 600 pesos ($30.94) per year to take care of the graves, and others work to prepare funerals by carving headstones or digging graves. Residents also appreciate the proximity to their lost loved ones, as explained by one cemetery-dweller to The Guardian: “I like him close. I like that when I wake up I can see him … I like that I can be the one to care for his grave.”

Ultimately, however, living conditions are far from just. In addition to the sub-poverty level income many residents earn, and the lack of access to basic services including “sanitation, electricity, and clean water,” police often raid the cemeteries in anti-drug missions, shooting and killing civilians within the premises. Despite this injustice, a lack of money prevents residents from investigating the shootings.

How “Tombstone Pillow” is Fighting Graveyard Poverty

It was a chilling visit to these cemeteries in the Philippines that inspired filmmaking couple Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir to create “Tombstone Pillow.” In fact, the name of the film draws directly from Bennett’s observation that residents used tombstones as pillows. On her LinkedIn, Bennett explains, “The reality of life in the cemetery shocked us so much, we couldn’t get the world and imagery out of our minds.” Already committed to creating “socially conscious”  media, Bennett and Lir translated the “emotions, world and characters” into the film to create a vivid tale of injustice and inequality.

In “Tombstone Pillow,” a wealthy widow visits her deceased husband at Manila North Cemetery in the midst of a raid on the community. Throughout the film, she obtains a sense of compassion for the poverty of the grave-dwellers, as well as an understanding of the socioeconomic inequality plaguing her city. The film not only raises awareness regarding the destitution plaguing the 6,000 Filipino graveyard dwellers but advocates for concrete reform on behalf of the Philippine government. At present, Bennett and Lir’s goal with the film is to pave the way for reforms to the living conditions within these cemeteries via relocation to more sustainable living spaces. To accomplish this, the couple hopes to present the film to the mayor of Manila.

The Film’s Success So Far

At present, “Tombstone Pillow” has acquired 33 awards and 43 nominations globally, including Best Inspirational Film at the Venice Film Awards, Hollywood Film Awards and NY Movie Awards. “Human beings deserve better, and filmmaking is the most powerful voice we know which has allowed us to help create change and awareness to this problem,” said Bennett to Samera Entertainment.

– Alisa Gulyansky 
Photo: Flickr

The Oratory
The Nigerian film industry, also known as Nollywood, is the second-largest film industry globally as of 2015, producing more than 1,000 films annually. The Nollywood Factory film “The Oratory,” in collaboration with the Salesians of Don Bosco, aims to raise awareness about the growing number of homeless children in Nigeria and inspire initiatives to bring about change.

The Film’s Mission

The Nollywood film “The Oratory” premiered on November 20, 2021, at the Filmhouse Cinemas in Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria with a little over 15 million people residing within the 452 square miles as of 2022. The movie follows an American-born priest who travels to Lagos where he tries to save homeless children trapped in a criminal network in the city. This is “the first Catholic movie from Nigeria” to highlight a topic like this.

The film’s executive producer, Dr. Cyril Odia, is a Nigerian Salesian priest who believes presenting these problems in the form of a movie will help raise awareness and garner more support. “The attempt of this movie is to call for action. As Salesians, we believe in faith in action. If we don’t multiply that effect and get more people to come on board, we can foresee that there is going to be a disaster.” The film producers also cast local children experiencing poverty and living in slums in an attempt to provide them with opportunities and hope to transform their lives.

Nigeria’s Street Children

With more than 250 ethnic groups and more than 500 languages spoken, Lagos is a cultural hub in West Africa. However, the city also struggles with major economic issues, and according to the World Bank, as of 2022, about four in 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty threshold. Tragically, children account for many impoverished persons as 42% of Nigeria’s population is younger than 15, says a 2022 article by The Conversation.

Homeless children in Nigeria are also known as “street children.” These children are pushed to live on the streets due to factors such as “poverty, neglect, abuse [and] domestic violence.” For survival, these children engage in child labor. Some steal and beg while others abuse substances. Children in these conditions join groups “for personal protection against gangs and law enforcement officials.” Unfortunately, the number of “street children” is rising despite calls for the Lagos State Department to invest in more housing accommodations and educational campaigns to raise awareness.

How Salesians Help Children in Nigeria

Salesians are followers of the Roman Catholic Church who dedicate their lives to helping underprivileged youth. This commitment is visible in Nigeria where Salesian missionaries have built schools and orphanages around the country and implemented efforts toward securing access to clean water and health services, among other efforts.

Responses From the World

On September 10, 2021, “The Oratory” premiered in Dublin to critics who praised the film and audiences who gave it a standing ovation. After watching the movie, Denise Onoise, a child protection specialist at the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), said the “movie aligns with the objectives of [UNICEF].” Onoise said that “[a]t UNICEF, we do partnerships like these even with ministries and government agencies. This is particularly interesting for us due to the work we had done in the past six years.”

In 2019, UNICEF collaborated with Salesians to open a juvenile justice center in a Salesian Immaculate Shelter in Togo to support the rehabilitation of minors who contravened the law. Foyer Don Bosco, a home in Benin that houses children victims of abandonment and abuse, released in a report on June 28, 2022, that it had received funding for clothing, food and other essential items from Salesian Missions.

A year after its release, the Nollywood film “The Oratory” continues to inspire the people of Lagos to fight harder for children living in poverty, and the Salesian effort to help only grows stronger.

– Yashavi Upasani
Photo: Flickr

india-its-cinema-and-its-poverty
India is a country that has strived to combat its rampant poverty over the past few decades. It is also one of the most well-known countries on earth, not just because of its population, but also because of its cultural influence. India’s poverty and cultural significance intertwine with its massive and diverse film industry, which comprises several languages and genres and which has an extensive history within the country. There are several smaller “sub-industries” within India, the most profitable and recognizable among them being Bollywood, which caters to a Hindi-speaking audience. There is also Parallel cinema, which is more of a movement than an industry. This article is going to examine various aspects of Bollywood and Parallel cinema relating to poverty. Here is some information about the relationship between India’s cinema and poverty.

Bollywood’s Impact

Bollywood represents mainstream Indian cinema, and as a result, has more influence regarding Indian poverty and its representation. Bollywood represents 15% of India’s film industry and produces 40% of the entire industry’s income, meaning that it is a significant driver of economic growth. Since it is almost as large as Hollywood, Bollywood provides plenty of opportunity for people from low-income backgrounds to find within the industry a job that can lift them out of poverty. Some prominent examples would be actors such as Johny Lever, who had to drop out of school in seventh grade and had to work odd jobs until he found resounding success in Bollywood comedy films.

Exploitative or Ground-Breaking?

Parallel cinema represents India’s independent, arthouse cinema and strives for more realistic portrayals of poverty. While its content generally attracts a limited audience, Parallel cinema can still have a tangible effect on poverty in India. A prime example of this would be the film “Salaam Bombay!” (1988), the debut of filmmaker Mira Nair. This film takes place in the slums of India and focuses on the daily lives of the children living there. The film features real children living in these slums instead of child actors, adding to the film’s social realism and commentary. The film became an internationally recognized work of Indian cinema and went on to win several awards in film festivals worldwide.

A much older Parallel film is “Awara” (1951), which Raj Kapoor directed. This film tells the story of a man who turns to crime so that he can financially support his mother, but then he attempts to lead a better life when he falls in love. Parallel films like “Awara” and “Salaam Bombay!” might not be able to influence India’s economy on the same level as Bollywood, but they do an important job by not only bringing global attention to poverty in India but also by representing it through realism as well.

Despite the awareness India’s film industry has raised for the country’s poor, there have been concerns about the exploitative and reductionist nature of such films. This criticism focuses mainly on Bollywood, but some Parallel filmmakers have garnered attention for this as well. Bollywood’s films have represented poverty, but have often received accusations of romanticizing it because of the use of dance numbers in numerous films. There are also films, such as “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), which make poverty peripheral to the plot.

Parallel Cinema’s Depiction of Poverty in India

Whereas Bollywood has received accusations of exploitation, people have called out Parallel filmmakers for cultivating an image of a poverty-stricken India. Nargis Dutt, a contemporary of the late Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, criticized his Apu Trilogy films for his depictions of poverty. She argued that they were only popular because Westerners “want to see India in an abject condition.”

To summarize, the relationship between India’s cinema and poverty has a long history and many tangible consequences. In addition to raising awareness and bolstering the economy, Indian cinema is also capable of misrepresenting poverty in India by either trivializing it or exaggerating it.

– Wesley Mba
Photo: Flickr

Film Industry in Saint Kitts and NevisSaint Kitts and Nevis became the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union’s (ECCU) first sovereign state to lower its debt-to-GDP ratio to the minimum 60% benchmark in 2018. The dual-island nation also adopted the Poverty Alleviation Program. Through this initiative, the government provided a monthly stipend to 4,000 families making less than EC $3,000 (USD $1,100) each month. However, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are jeopardizing the country’s economic growth. The tourism industry contributes 60% of Saint Kitts and Nevis’s GDP. Because of the pandemic’s disruption to the tourism sector, predictions have determined that the country will experience -2% GDP growth in 2021. Fortunately, an unexpected economic opportunity has arisen that will assist the nation in generating additional revenue: the new film industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The MSR Media Deal

The entertainment industry suffered a significant economic collapse due to the shutdown of movie theaters and film production studios during lockdown regulations. In 2020, estimates determined that the international theatrical and home entertainment industry was worth $80.8 billion. This is a drop of 18% from the previous year. The most substantial decrease was in theater revenue, which fell from $42.3 billion in 2019 to $12 billion in 2020. Moreover, theater companies generated just 15% of the world’s total entertainment revenues compared to 43% in 2019.

COVID-19 safety regulations cost film companies like Universal an extra $8 million due to the overall production costs in the U.K. Due to the strict safety precautions and rising production costs in the U.K., film companies like MSR Media sought after COVID-19 safe havens to continue filming. The company found Nevis Island to be the ideal solution.

Saint Kitts and Nevis had only 44 reported coronavirus cases by March 2021. All but two of the patients had recovered completely, and there had been no fatalities. Since the end of August 2020, there have been no curfew or shelter-in-place restrictions throughout the country. Additionally, the CDC has also given Saint Kitts and Nevis a Level 1: Low Covid Risk rating. In contrast, the State Department has given the nation a Level 2 travel advisory. MSR Media has invested a multi-million dollar film industry investment in Saint Kitts and Nevis as a result of the country’s efficient control of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the film industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis underwent formal establishment.

New Employment Opportunities

According to data from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Saint Kitts and Nevis’ economy had a GDP of $927.4 million (2.5 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) in 2020, down 11.2% due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the tourism industry. In 2019, the tourism industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis employed 4,800 people. However, a World Food Programme survey found 51% of the population reported job losses or lower income as a result of the pandemic in 2020. Winston Crooke, a former actor and native Nevis Islander, detailed the tourist industry’s dire state. “I haven’t seen a tourist in a year and a half,” he told The Borgen Project in an interview.

Film creators will shoot six films on the island of Nevis as part of the MSR Media deal. MSR Media has recruited a total of 32 locals to work full-time with the film crew. Eight locals have landed speaking roles. Additionally, the crew cast 160 locals as extras. Nevis Premier Mark Brantley expressed gratitude to MSR Media for bringing employment and development opportunities to the island.

Boosting the Economy

The debut of the film industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis is also proving to be profitable. As a result of the MSR Media deal, opportunities for economic diversification have developed. It has created new prospects for employment, education and increased the exposure of Nevis across the world. Every four months, $1 million will go to the national economy per terms of the MSR Media deal.

The arrival of the film industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis has also ushered in the possibility of a new tourism category known as film tourism. Several distinct characteristics contribute to Saint Kitts and Nevis’ appeal as a filming location, setting the twin islands apart from others in the Caribbean. The country’s breathtaking scenery includes green hills that meet at Mt. Liamuiga’s volcanic peak, a rainforest, a harbor with several hidden coves and inlets and many beautiful beaches. Several tourist sites, including the Saint Kitts Scenic Railway and the Brimstone Hill Fortress, are located there. The Hamilton Museum is located on Nevis, as the island is the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States

Saint Kitts and Nevis is developing new hotels in anticipation of more tourists. Prime Minister Timothy Harris of Saint Kitts has outlined a varied hotel complex that is nearing construction. The Trinity Sunset Shores, Seaview Hotel and Hillsborough Suites Hotel are among these buildings, all of which will open in 2021.

Saint Kitts and Nevis’ Citizen by Investment Program (CBI), which began in 1984, is the world’s longest-running investment migration program. In exchange for contributing to the Sustainable Growth Fund, the program provides a haven for U.S. families. The income that the fund creates goes toward assisting many aspects of society, such as tourism and healthcare. Winston Crooke feels the film industry will aid in increasing interest in the CBI program. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity, and [filming movies in Nevis] is great publicity. I think what [MSR Media has] done is showcase not only [the island] but also what Saint Kitts and Nevis can offer to small companies,” he said.

The Acting Academy

One of the MSR Media team’s goals is to teach individuals from Saint Kitts and Nevis the skill of creating films. On February 22, 2021, the Acting Academy opened its doors. Phillipe Martinez, MSR Media’s Chief Producer and Director, and Winston Crooke, now an acting coach, lead the academy. The Nevis Performing Arts Center hosts the Acting Academy. Aspiring performers will take evening lessons twice a week, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. “The Acting Academy is about developing whatever skill sets [locals] have, nurturing [those skills] and owning them,” said Winston Crooke. All classes at the academy are free.

Future of the Film Industry

The film industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis has a bright future. MSR Media is currently working on projects including A Week in Paradise, Assailant and One Year Off in Saint Kitts and Nevis. “The most important thing is to help develop these other people [or] youngsters and so on in the film industry so they will carry on and develop the market. And I also want to thank MSR Media, Philippe Martinez and the production company for being bold enough to look at Nevis Island in the way that they have and give us this fabulous opportunity,” expressed Winston Crooke.

– Tiara Tyson
Photo: Flickr

The United Kingdom is known for being a popular city for tourists with sites, such as Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace. However, what may not be as well-known is the fact that the UK struggles with a significant class difference. It has an ever-widening gap between the poor and the affluent, which leads to high rates of poverty in the UK, specifically for children.

Child Poverty

Child poverty is one of the most notable effects of overall poverty in the UK. This poverty crisis struck Britain hard in 1999. Its child poverty proportion became the highest out of all of the western European countries.

In 2016-17, poverty impacted nearly 30% of children — 4.1 million — in the UK. In the following year — 2018-19, the number of children in poverty in the UK increased by 100,000. The trend is on an upward spike rather than its 2003 downward rate when child poverty was made a priority. Poverty in the UK needs to be addressed, especially among the youth. It leads to increased hardships in life from education to mental and physical health to employment and so much more.

Use of the Film Industry

Films produce major results in ending poverty. The film industry has positively impacted poverty in the UK in many ways. For one, the film industry creates many job opportunities. In 2009, the core UK film industry created or impacted nearly 100,000 jobs relating to film production, sales and tourism. Furthermore, portrayals of the UK in films contribute heavily to tourism and yearly account for about £1.9 billion. That brings the total UK film industry contribution in 2009 to raising the GDP by more than £4.5 billion.

The improved economy can be a promising solution for aiding the UK’s children out of poverty. The country can use the funds to help out the struggling citizens, focusing specifically on the poor. In this way, films pose as a promising solution for poverty aid in other countries as well.

“Poor Kids”

The amount of money and the impact the film industry has on the UK is astounding and a promising solution for poverty. However, the impact one film made for children in poverty is even more remarkable.

The film, “Poor Kids,” has made great strides toward improving the lives of impoverished UK children. The film illustrates the living situations of three families in poverty through the lens of the children. Courtney (age 8), Paige (age 10) and Sam (age 11) give detailed and heart-wrenching accounts of their experiences growing up in poverty. The film received much acclaim. It was a Broadcast Best Documentary Nominee, a Learning on Screen Nominee, a Televisual Bulldog Best Documentary Nominee and received the Chicago Film Festival Gold Plaque for Social and Political Documentary in 2012.

Films awards aside, “Poor Kids” sparked change in the community. Make Lunch is a program that began after Poor Kids debuted as a direct result of the film. The program contributes free meals to children during the times when school is not in session and when children could potentially go for a long period without food. In the summer of 2012, as many as 13 lunch kitchens were providing the free lunches.

And That’s A Wrap

The effects of poverty in the UK are prevalent, notably in the large number of impoverished children. The worsening situation provides a sense of sorrow to the country, but a solution presents itself. Films not only contribute to the wealth of a country, but they provide jobs as well. Both of these aspects could be potential resources to utilize when fighting poverty.

Additionally, films bring about emotion, and that creates change. The inspiration that “Poor Kids” ignited contributed to a charity that helps the children in poverty. With results, such as the Make Lunch program, films can yield great benefits for poverty in the UK and the world.

Hailee Shores
Photo: Flickr

Video Advocacy in AfricaWITNESS Media Lab, a nonprofit based in the Brooklyn neighborhood of New York City, protects human rights. How? By providing victims of social injustice with technology resources, verification platforms and video curation methods. Global internet users have increased by approximately three billion between 2005 and 2019 due to increasing access to mobile technology. Video advocacy in Africa is now being used to expose gross injustices, across the continent.

Platforms like WITNESS extend human rights advocacy toward the field of technology. WITNESS uses film footage to publicize global crimes against humanity. Also, impoverished communities reach a large audience through film resources that help contextualize and disseminate eyewitness documentation.

The Borgen Project spoke with Adebayo Okeowo, WITNESS Africa Program Manager and human rights lawyer, to gain insight on WITNESS’s involvement in Africa. In 2017, internet access in sub-Saharan Africa increased to 25%, providing approximately 25% of the population with access to online, human rights resources.

A Digitized Form of Advocacy

Video advocacy is film footage used to publicize humanitarian issues that require international attention. WITNESS provides resources on video production and curation, allowing documented forms of injustice to reach a wider audience. Once issues of injustice receive global attention, influential policymakers and human rights lawyers are more likely to intervene.

According to The World Bank, “eight of the ten most unequal countries in the world, when looking at the Gini coefficient, are in sub-Saharan Africa.” Socioeconomic conditions such as income inequality, government corruption and inequitable tax systems lead to high levels of disparity in impoverished African nations. As inequality rises in Africa, remote villages face an increased likelihood of war and violence. Here, video advocacy in Africa holds great potential for change. WITNESS helps reduce inequality by assisting in the publication and preservation of videos that expose injustices.

Capturing Global Attention

Although internet access has risen in sub-Saharan Africa, remote communities face challenges in bringing global awareness to humanitarian issues. For instance, inadequate IT infrastructure and poor Wi-Fi connection can lead to a decline in internet access. This, in turn, decreases the number of users who document and publicize acts of injustice. This presents a challenge for video advocacy in Africa. Furthermore, rural African communities lack global attention, to begin with. This, in turn, makes it difficult for humanitarian crises to gain traction in the media.

Okeowo stated that when the 2015 Baga massacre occurred in the same week as the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, hashtags like #JeSuisCharlie trended on Twitter while the mass killing of approximately 2,000 Nigerians failed to reach global news. Okeowo told The Borgen Project that “we must double our efforts in prioritizing interventions in every corner where there is injustice, but more especially in the forgotten places.”

Justice for Child Soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

In 2012, WITNESS partnered with AJEDI-Ka, a local nonprofit in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The aim was to assist in the conviction of militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. WITNESS and AJEDI-Ka presented two films comprising video documentation of Lubanga recruiting child soldiers to the International Criminal Court (ICC). As a result, the ICC sentenced Lubanga to 14 years in prison for the war crime of enlisting child soldiers under the age of 15.

The video documentation, ranging back to 2003, initiated an ICC investigation by providing general information on Lubanga’s war crimes. WITNESS, AJEDI-Ka and the ICC protected the human rights of potential child soldiers by holding Lubanga accountable for breaking international law. The 2012 ICC verdict and the 2014 upheld conviction signaled a warning to future militia leaders planning to recruit children for military purposes.

Okeowo told The Borgen Project that film publication “is not so much about how many eyes see the video, but that the right set of eyes see the video.” WITNESS is one of the leading organizations using video documentation to bring justice to impoverished areas, representing approximately 135 countries globally.

– Madeline Zuzevich
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Animated War MoviesMovies have long presented the ill effects war has on communities, but animated war movies shatter expectations. They linger between reality and imagination but play on emotional vulnerabilities while maintaining a subtle level of detachment. Here are three animated war movies that have changed the perception of war films, animation and war itself.

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

The film is a documentary that unfolds the repressed memories of its director, Ari Folman, who served in the Israeli Army during the 1982 Lebanon War. Even though Folman does not consider the Lebanese or Palestinian perspective, the film remains a harrowing journey from the anguishes of war to absolute horror.

Israel invaded Lebanon to fight the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and help establish a new order under the Lebanese Christian Phalangists. Folman’s spectacular visual journey builds up to the Sabra and Shatila massacre, which turns into disturbingly real footage. The film almost wrestles with Israel’s culpability.

Following the assassination of Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel, with then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon claiming there were thousands of terrorists in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, Israeli soldiers sealed off Sabra and Shatila, and Phalangists militiamen entered the camps.

“In the ensuing three-day rampage, the militia, linked to the Maronite Christian Phalange Party, raped, killed and dismembered at least 800 civilians, while Israeli flares illuminated the camps’ narrow and darkened alleyways. Nearly all of the dead were women, children and elderly men,” Seth Anziska wrote at The New York Times. Sources report the casualties as high as three thousand.

Today, Sabra and Shatila are cramped and overcrowded, with scarce electricity and a contaminated water supply. American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) helps fund organizations that provide pre-school programs, vocational training and psychological assistance to Sabra and Shatila refugees. The prospect of refugees returning to Palestine remains bleak.

Grave of Fireflies (1988)

Originally a short story by Japanese author Akiyuki Nosaka, the film is an animated semi-autobiography about Nosaka’s experience during the firebombing of Kobe and the death of his little sister. The late historian and film critic, Roger Ebert, called the film “one of the greatest war films ever made.”

Over nine thousand tons of U.S. fire-bombs destroyed 31 square miles of Kobe, while the Tokyo air raid destroyed 20 percent of the city in one of the deadliest air raids in history – worse than Nagasaki and almost equal to Hiroshima.

According to historian Masahiko Yamabe, while earlier raids targeted military facilities, the Tokyo fire-bombing purposefully targeted areas with wood and paper homes. These areas usually exceeded 100 thousand people per square mile.

The film depicts the inferno and desecration, but survival and love make it a masterpiece portrayal of family and survivor’s guilt. Nosaka blamed himself for his sister’s death, and the apology is commemorated in the tender moments shared between the characters Seita and his sister, Setsuko.

The destruction and horror that befell these cities aren’t widely discussed in Japan. Yamabe said governments are reluctant to admit it was all the result of an outright refusal to end the war sooner. Other factors include how the atomic bombings eclipsed the attacks and how fast Japan rebuilt.

Hiroshima began rebuilding just hours after it was decimated – a communal effort, aided by volunteers. In March 1946, Kobe began a series of long-term master plans for postwar recovery. Despite the firebombs seemingly fading from memory, many survivors are determined to tell their stories.

Funan (2018)

Inspired by the director’s mother during the Khmer Rouge regime, Funan is not so much an animated war movie depicting genocidal atrocities as it is about a family struggling to survive and reunite under unimaginable duress and terror.

The Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 and lasted for four years under the leadership of Pol Pot. The regime sought an entirely new country, one free of money, family ties, religion, education and property. As a result, an estimated two million people died from forced labor, disease, starvation or execution. Doctors, teachers and engineers were executed, and all existing infrastructure was destroyed.

Film critic Peter Debruge parallels Funan to the animated war movie Grave of the Fireflies. Both have an ability to balance emotional intimacy and distance when depicting “unwatchable” tragedy. The process of healing from the genocide only began with the establishment of The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in 2006. The tribunal is tasked with investigating the Khmer Rouge, but its future is uncertain.

It took nine years for the first case to go to trial, and 12 years and $320 million to convict three men. In 2018, two of these men, Non Chea and Khieu Samphan, were found guilty of genocide over the attempted extermination of the Cham Muslim and Vietnamese minorities – the only genocide conviction against the Khmer Rouge.

Despite the tribunal’s faults and opposition from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodians are beginning to overcome their fears and face their wounds. One example is the television show “It’s Not A Dream,” which has reunited more than 50 Cambodian families.

Animated war movies not only depict the destruction of war, but also the human cost. Despite the hardships, humanity has been able to bounce back from war – at least to a point – but no progress is made without communal and international support.

– Emma Uk
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Global Poverty FilmsGlobal poverty is a worldwide issue that is still prevalent today. According to UNICEF, one billion children worldwide are living in poverty and 22,000 children die every day due to poverty. However, many people do not know the extent of global poverty and how big the issue really is. That is why films realistically showing global poverty are important to today’s society, as these films that can spread awareness about the issues being presented along with a compelling story. These are five top global poverty films that help shine a spotlight on social causes around the world.

Top 5 Global Poverty Films

  1. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
    Set in India, Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal Malik, an 18-year-old boy raised in the slums of Mumbai. The film depicted many hard to watch, yet realistic, scenes of poverty in India, including children being recruited to beg on the street for food, and children living in extreme poverty being forced into labor to survive. The film was widely acclaimed and became extremely popular; in 2009, it was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won eight of them, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also won seven BAFTA Awards, five Critics’ Choice Awards and four Golden Globes.
  2. Queen of Katwe (2016)
    Queen of Katwe is a film based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in a slum in Katwe. The movie follows her journey as she learns and begins to excel at chess, with the goal of lifting her family out of poverty. Queen of Katwe was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and ESPN films, receiving praise from critics as a realistic portrayal of poverty in Africa. In a review by Angela Watercutter for WIRED, she writes, “it is a very Disney movie in that it centers around a family and has a happy ending, but it is a very un-Disney story in that it unblinkingly examines the poverty, violence and racism its protagonists face every day.” It also had a high profile cast—starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga, which helped to raise even more awareness for poverty in Uganda.
  3. The First Grader (2010)
    The First Grader is based on a true story about Kimani Maruge, an 84-year-old Kenyan villager and farmer who enrolls in elementary school after the Kenyan government announced free universal primary education in 2003. The film shows a realistic depiction of rural and urban Kenya, as well as many issues that those living in extreme poverty in Kenya had to face both at that time and in the present, such as lack of access to schooling, being separated from family and having to suffer in work and prison camps at the hands of the British. The film raised a lot of awareness of how big the issue of lack of schooling and access to education is in Kenya and Africa. National Geographic described its impact as “a triumphant testimony to the transforming force of education.”
  4. Neria (1993)
    Neria, made in Zimbabwe’s golden age of “Zollywood,” is a story about a rural woman who becomes a widow, and loses her farm and livelihood. Neria became the most critically-acclaimed film of the decade and highest-grossing film of all time from Zimbabwe. Part of its popularity came from the fact Zimbabwe’s biggest cultural icon, Oliver Mtukudzi, made the soundtrack. This star power gained global attention, with major U.S. newspapers reporting about it, leading to much more awareness about global poverty and poverty in Africa.
  5. Girl Rising (2013)
    Girl Rising is a documentary-style film that follows the stories of nine girls from Haiti, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, Egypt, Peru, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan on their journey to education. The film highlighted issues surrounding girls’ educations around the world and promoted the organization Girl Rising, which works to ensure that girls around the world are educated and empowered. Girl Rising has partnered with Michelle Obama by producing the documentary special We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World, which has become one of CNN’s highest-rated documentary specials.

These five films show how film can be an amazing medium for spreading messages and garnering worldwide attention. That is why films surrounding global poverty are so important, as they are able to raise awareness for a number of prevalent issues.

– Natalie Chen
Photo: Creative Commons

Documentaries About PovertyDocumentaries are a form of film or television which take advantage of the entertainment platform to inform audiences of important issues through a more gripping means. They range in topics from technological innovation to the controversial beauty industry. Many documentaries have also focused on another major issue of today: global poverty. Below is a list of the top five documentaries about poverty as of 2019 and where to find them.

Top 5 Documentaries About Poverty and Where to Find Them

  1. The End of Poverty?: Directed by Philippe Diaz, who is well known within the genre, the documentary debuted in 2008 and became notorious for its unique historical perspective on global poverty. It highlighted the ways poverty has amassed through the years, beginning as early as the 16th century and concluding with present day. The film describes how poverty thrives in today’s world through interviews with historians, economists and impoverished families from around the world. This documentary can be viewed on Amazon Prime.
  2. Dilli: This 2011 documentary about the slums of Delhi focuses on the hardships of individuals in the area. Though relatively short, coming in just longer than 30 minutes, the film has a firm impact on the audience. Through interviews with citizens, ranging from old to young, directors Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas depict these daily trials. The film received critical acclaim, winning 1st place in the Short Documentary category of the Los Angeles Movie Awards. This documentary about poverty can be viewed now on Youtube.
  3. Poor No More: This 2010 documentary focuses on the poverty of Canada’s working-class by following the journey of native citizens. It puts Canada under a lens in comparison with Ireland and Sweden in terms of their respective job markets. The documentary takes a moment to focus on poverty within a different context—within the context of a country which is generally presumed as wealthy and well structured. The documentary can be viewed on Youtube.
  4. Hauling: This documentary, which premiered in 2010, follows the daily life of the Claudine family, a household of 27 children, whose income is dependent on the recycling system of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Every day, they collect the leftover wood, plastic and cardboard of the city in exchange for meager payment from the local recycling plant. The film brings forth the discussion of poverty in Brazil and the ways which their citizens persevere. The film can be viewed on Amazon Prime.
  5. The True Cost: This 2015 documentary focuses on the fashion industry and the way it uses impoverished nations to obtain cheap labor and goods. The film highlights the controversy of the fashion industry and the way it abuses the environment and ignores basic human rights. This documentary about poverty can be found on Netflix.

Art and media can become a platform for the voiceless. In these five documentaries about poverty, the lives of the underprivileged are documented for the rest of the world to face. If people want to help, but they don’t quite know where to start, then they must take the first step to get informed. Any of these documentaries could be a place to start.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

Documentaries About MigrationDocumentaries are often a great resource for gaining insight on a particular topic. In recent years, various journalists, filmmakers and documentarians have played a key role in telling the stories of those suffering from socio-political unrest occurring around the world. These stories include key humanitarian issues, such as migration resulting from crises. Not only do these crises displace millions of lives, but they also create an imbalance, leading to migrants who must endure poor living conditions. As such, documentaries about migration are extremely popular. They portray global migration crises from the perspective of those most affected. Here are the top five documentaries about migration.

Top 5 Documentaries About Migration

  1. 4.1 Miles (2016)
    A story about a Hellenic coast guard captain on a small Greek island who suddenly becomes in charge of saving thousands of refugees from drowning during the European migration crisis gives the viewers hope for humanity. The film was a winner of the David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award at the 2016 IDA Documentary Awards and was an Academy Award® Short Subject nominee.
  2. Human Flow (2017)
    Human Flow takes the viewer across the globe through 23 countries. It highlights urgent stories of victims of the various refugee crisis and shows the plight of those looking for a safe space to live in. For Ai Weiwei, “the purpose of (the documentary) is to show it to people of influence, people who are in a position to help and who have a responsibility to help.”
  3. Stranger in Paradise (2016)
    Stranger in Paradise is a mixture of fiction and documentary that depicts an actor in a classroom of a detention center telling refugees about what Europeans think of them. It reflects on the powerful relation between the Europeans and refugees in a candid manner and highlights the emotion most people feel while they have to go through the turmoil of displacement.
  4. City of Ghosts (2017)
    This film is a story of brave citizen journalists who face the realities of life undercover, in exile and on the run to stand against the violence that is taking place in the city of Raqqa in Syria. This film has used the camera as a powerful weapon to show the circumstances that have shaped the lives of people in Syria and has highlighted the turmoil in Syria in a great way.
  5. The Good Postman (2016)
    This film follows Ivan, the local postman in a quiet Bulgarian community on the Turkish border, as he decides to run for mayor. He then campaigns to bring the aging village to life by welcoming refugees. Some in the community support Ivan, while others resist his campaign. The film highlights the importance of a global discussion, depicting the plight of refugees and how they are perceived around the globe.

These five documentaries about migration enable viewers to understand migrants by portraying the conflicts driving migration through a personal lens. By diving into the lives of those impacted, these films tell a larger story about humanity as a whole.

Isha Akshita Mahajan
Photo: Flickr