Global 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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