Education, Education: In ancient times in China, education was the only way out of poverty; in recent times it has been the best way. China’s economic boom and talk of the merits of hard work have created an expectation that to study is to escape poverty. These days however, China’s higher education system only leads to jobs for a few, educating a new generation to unemployment and despair.

Give Us The Money: Bosse Lindquist’s film looks at how celebrities have become political activists and advocates for the world’s poor. The director follows the efforts made by the campaigns ‘Live Aid’, ‘Drop the Debt’ and ‘Make Poverty History’ by rock stars Bob Geldof and Bono.

Land Rush: The population of Mali comprises 75 per cent farmers, but rich, land-hungry nations like China and Saudi Arabia are leasing Mali’s land in order to turn large areas into agribusiness farms. Many Malian peasants do not welcome these efforts, seeing them as yet another manifestation of imperialism.

Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream -740 Park Ave, New York City is home to some of the wealthiest Americans. Across the Harlem River, ten minutes to the north, is the other Park Avenue in South Bronx, where more than half the population need food stamps and children are twenty times
more likely to be killed. In the last thirty years, inequality has rocketed in the US.

Poor Us: Beginning in the Neolithic Age, this film by Ben Lewis takes us through the changing world of poverty. You go to sleep, you dream, you become poor through the ages. As an impoverished avatar you float across centuries and continents smelling, looking at and listening to poverty. This trip, combined with interviews with experts, makes this film an excellent source of information about the history of poverty and a way to understand the present.

Solar Mamas: Rafea is the second wife of a Bedouin husband. She is selected to attend the Barefoot College in India that takes uneducated women from poor communities and trains them to become solar engineers. The college’s 6-month programme brings together women from all over the world. The film follows Rafea as she finds that qualifying at the college is the first of many challenges.

Stealing Africa: Rüschlikon is a village in Switzerland with a very low tax rate and very wealthy residents, but it receives more tax revenue than it can use. This is largely thanks to one resident, Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore, whose copper mines in Zambia are not generating a large bounty tax revenue for the Zambians.

Welcome to the World: Every year, 130 million babies are born and not one of them decides where they will be born or how they will live. In Cambodia, you’re likely to be born to a family living on less than $1 per day. In Sierra Leone, chances of surviving the first year are half those of the global average. In the USA, Starr’s new baby could soon be one of the 1.6 million homeless children now living in the streets. Brian Hill takes a worldwide trip to meet the newest generation.

Why Poverty? uses documentary film to get people talking about poverty. The collection is made up of eight long films and thirty-four shorts by award-winning filmmakers, as well as new and emerging talents. The stories, originating from twenty-eight countries, are moving and thought-provoking as they tackle big issues and pose challenging questions.

It has been said that, in this century, we have the tools and potential to overcome extreme poverty. But poverty persists, and the gap between the poor and the wealthy continues to widen. The demographics of poverty are also changing, with new poverty emerging in the North and new wealth emerging in the previously poorer South. Poverty and inequality is global, and the causes for its continued existence are largely structural. The long films explore these structural causes, whether they are tax evasion by multinational companies, lack of land rights for the poor, unequal access to health care, or gender imbalance. The short films provide glimpses into people’s lives as they try to deal with poverty and inequality.


This guide is designed to help facilitators and educators to engage with audiences. The aim is to deepen the understanding of the underlying causes of poverty and inequality as explored in the Why Poverty? films.

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