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

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5. How to Change the World (2015)
This documentary discusses the creation of the modern environmental groups and the rise of Greenpeace. 1971–the Nixon Administration orders the third underground nuclear test on Alaska’s Amchitka Island, site a WWII U.S. Naval air facility. The remote island, once home to the world’s largest runway, was an ideal location for the U.S. government to conduct underground nuclear testing. The film follows Bob Hunter, “a hippy journalist from Vancouver” and Greenpeace founding member, during a sailing voyage to Amchitka Island to protest the atomic testing.

4. The True Cost (2015)
Number 4 of the top documentaries to stream on Netflix, The True Cost features a “behind the curtain” story revealing hard truths about the fashion industry’s production system. John Hilary, the executive director of the “War on Want” captures the essence of the film: “When everything is concentrated on making profits, what you see is that human rights, the environment, workers rights get lost.” Organizations like Clean Clothes Campaign, BRAC, Fashion Revolution and Greenpeace continue to advocate for reform in the fashion industry. The film seeks to educate the public in order to stir support for campaigns like Fashion Revolution’s mission to reform the fashion industry “which values people, the environment, creativity and profits in equal measure.”

3. The Square (2013)
Tahrir Square certainly has its place going back long into history; however, five years ago it was the site of protests and an Egyptian revolution. Protesters like Khalid Abdalla, the British-Egyptian actor and star of The Kite Runner, occupied the heart of Cairo to protest the current government regime. The documentary features footage shot by protesters that capture the intimacy of their struggle. It’s a story about a people yearning for their rights to be heard and to “create a society of conscience.” The Square received a 2014 Oscar Nomination for ‘Best Documentary’.

2. The White Helmets (2016)
The White Helmets features a story about hope in the war-torn nation of Syria. In a nation wrought with death and destruction, the White Helmets claim to have saved 62,000 lives. The film offers firsthand perspectives into the civil war in Syria, exposing its horrors but also sending a message that the altruism of the human spirit will never fail. Though a bid for the Nobel Peace Prize was unsuccessful, supporters are actively campaigning to raise the $1 million that would have been awarded to the White Helmet rescue workers. The money will go to “treat wounded volunteers and replace rescue equipment and ambulances that have been bombed.”

1. Poverty, Inc. (2014)
At number 1, Poverty, Inc. tells the story of the multi-billion dollar business of charitable giving. Through well-intentioned donations, the charity industry generates enormous profits for certain businesses but does not develop recipient nations to become self-reliant. Instead, the preponderance of aid leads to dependency. The documentary encourages “empowerment” in order to eliminate the mindset of dependency on foreign aid. Winner of 30 film festival honors, Poverty, Inc. tells an incredible story of hope and charts a general path toward finally eradicating extreme global poverty.

Tim Devine

Photo: Flickr